Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association

‘Farm to School’ Introduced in Congress

Last week, members of Congress took the first step toward a bill designed to help local economies, farm families and the health of the nation’s children. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi) as well as Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebraska) and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) introduced the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 to expand the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The two identical bills are intended to improve access to healthy local foods in schools, and experiential food and agriculture education for students while boosting economic opportunities for farmers. The bills are aimed for inclusion in the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.

“With the introduction of this bill, we are building on the positive momentum of farm fresh food in school meals, school gardens and farm-to-school education across the curriculum, such as cooking classes, taste tests, hands-on science classes and farm field trips,” said Helen Dombalis, Policy and Strategic Partnerships director with the National Farm to School Network.

“With the introduction of this bill, we are building on the positive momentum of farm fresh food in school meals, school gardens and farm-to-school education across the curriculum, such as cooking classes, taste tests, hands-on science classes and farm field trips,” said Helen Dombalis, Policy and Strategic Partnerships director with the National Farm to School Network.

“Along with supporting healthy kids, farm-to-school initiatives open new market opportunities for farmers, fishers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs, supporting a stronger local and regional food system,” said Eugene Kim, policy specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “In 2011-12, U.S. schools spent $385 million on local food. Expanding farm-to-school activities through this bill will multiply the economic impact for producers and new, emerging local food businesses.”

Administered by USDA, the Farm to School Grant Program provides funds on a competitive basis to schools, nonprofits and farmers, as well as local, state and tribal government entities, all to help schools procure local foods and to support farm-to-school activities in cafeterias, classrooms and communities. The program was originally funded as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

In its first three years, the program received more than 1,000 applications totaling more than $78 million but was only able to fund less than 20 percent of requests from the $15 million allocated. The bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 proposes an increase in annual mandatory program funding from $5 million to $15 million and proposes greater support for preschools, summer food-service sites, after-school programs, and tribal schools and producers. The proposed legislation also aims to improve program participation from beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

The National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition call on Congress to fully include these proposals in the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which is set to expire Sept. 30.

The National Farm to School Network is the leading voice for the U.S. farm-to-school movement, working as an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and preschools. Visit farmtoschool.org for more information.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal-policy reform supporting long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources and rural communities. Visit sustainableagriculture.net for more information.

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Volume 14, Issue 47 | November 23, 2022

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