WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, members of Congress took the first step toward a major win for local economies, farm families and the health of our nation’s children. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Marcia Fudge (D-OH) introduced the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 to expand the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program.
The two identical bills will improve access to healthy local foods in schools and experiential food and agriculture education for students while boosting economic opportunities for family farmers. The bills are aimed for inclusion in the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
“Research shows that kids eat what they know, and today more than 23 million students are learning about healthy food and local farms in the classroom and cafeteria,” 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.”
“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, farmers, and local, state and tribal government entities 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 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, together with the forward-thinking, bipartisan and bicameral sponsors and champions of this new measure, call on Congress to fully include these proposals in the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act (CNR), which is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2015.
About National Farm to School Network
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. To meet your state lead and learn more about what farm to school activities are happening in your region, visit farmtoschool.org.
About National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. For more information, visit sustainableagriculture.net.
The National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the 2015 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act (CNR 2015), with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.