Frequently Asked Questions


What is SCALES?

Supporting Community Agriculture & Local Education Systems (SCALES) is a project that is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. The project is led by Boise State University, in partnership with LunchAssist. We will be issuing grants to 70 school food authorities (SFAs) over the next five years. Those grants will fund innovation and partnerships to build resilient local school food systems.

What additional support will grant recipients receive?

Our partners at LunchAssist are building resources for grant recipients, which will be specific to this project. They will provide regular technical assistance calls and will host a monthly learning community for school food program operators, as well as providing access to an online learning portal.

How many grants will you issue?

We expect to fund up to 35 school food authorities (SFAs) in the first round of funding. We also expect to open up a second round of grant funding, and will announce that in 2025.


Who is eligible to apply?

SCALES grants are open to school food authorities (SFAs) in the United States, including the contiguous states, Alaska, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico or US Virgin Islands. To be eligible, an SFA (or school district) must participate in the National School Lunch Program.

For the first round of SCALES grants, only rural SFAs are eligible to apply.

What is a rural school food authority (SFA)?

In the first round of grants, only SFAs located in rural areas will be able to apply. To confirm that your SFA/district is eligible, please use this look-up tool to find details about your district.

At the bottom of the listing for each district, locale is listed. Your SFA/district is eligible to apply for a sub-grant if the listing shows locale as “RURAL” with codes of 41, 42, or 43. Don’t see your district or SFA on this list? Please email us!

In the next round, districts in urban and suburban areas and towns will also be able to apply!

If you have any questions about eligibility, please contact us directly: [email protected]

Can organizations apply for more than one USDA-funded grant?

Project SCALES is part of the USDA’s Healthy Meals Incentives Initiative (HMI). SFAs can apply to multiple HMI School Food System Transformation Challenge Sub-Grants. SFAs that are the lead applicant on another HMI grant can not receive funding through Project SCALES. For example, SFAs are eligible to receive funding through Project SCALES if they are a supporting partner or secondary applicant on another HMI grant project such as the Chef Ann Foundation’s PLANTS grants, but not if they are the lead applicant on a PLANTS grant.

SFAs that have farm to school grants or other related types of funding are eligible to apply for Project SCALES.

Can two or more districts apply together?

Collaborations among smaller districts are great, and we encourage partnerships. For a project that involves a consortium or collaboration among multiple districts, one must be the lead, with the others named as partners. Another option is for each district to submit a separate application, if the projects proposed are unique in scope.

Can other organizations apply if they are not a school food authority (SFA)?

Only SFAs can be the lead applicant on these grants. However, other types of organizations can — and should — be included in applications as partners on the proposed projects.


When are applications due?

The deadline for submitting applications is 11:59pm ET on January 26, 2024.

What support is available to help applicants?

In addition to the information provided on our website, we will also host an informational webinar. A recording of the webinar will be posted on this website. In addition, we can provide prompt responses to inquiries via email at [email protected] and you can request a meeting with us.

How will applications be reviewed?

Applications will be reviewed by a panel of expert reviewers according to the criteria in the scoring rubric in the Request for Applications. The SCALES team will read all reviews and rank applications according to score, and by region of the United States. Within regions we will identify the highest-scoring applications, and will develop a list of finalists. We will discuss those applications with the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). The collaborators at FNS will approve final decisions. FNS reserves the right to accept the review panel’s recommendation or to select an awardee out of order to meet agency priorities, geographical representation, or project diversity.

Is matching funding required?


Can grant administration costs be included in the budgets?

Yes! Please see the budget information documents on our APPLY page. Those include more details about allowable costs, which do include indirect costs for grant administration.