Organizations Urge Congress to Fund Farm to School Program

| 5/5/2010 2:37:10 PM

KC ComptonThe Farm to School bill has so much win-win embedded in it, I have trouble imagining why any legislator wouldn’t be willing and even eager to support it. The program would increase sales of farm products and improve child nutrition by making locally raised food available in our schools.

A farm-to-school program was first authorized in 2004 in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, but funds were never actually appropriated for the effort. Earlier this year, Senator Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) each introduced farm-to-school bills that include $50 million in mandatory funding for a program to be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Representatives Farr (D-CA) and Putnam (R-FL) included $50 million for farm-to-school in their Children's Fruit and Vegetable Act of 2009 (H.R. 4333), as did California Sen. Barbara Boxer in her Growing Farm to School Protection Act (S. 3144).

On Monday, 41 national organizations delivered a letter to House and Senate Congressional leaders urging them to include $50 million in mandatory funding for programs linking farmers with local schools as part of the 2010 Child Nutrition Act reauthorization. Farm to School programs have been shown to increase farmers' incomes while improving the nutrition and food literacy of school children. Considering that an alarming number of our school children think food actually originates in supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, this seems like a truly valuable program.

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed its version of the Child Nutrition bill on March 24, including $40 million for Farm to School. Mark-up in the House Education and Labor Committee is expected later this spring. The full Senate and House are expected to take action on the bill sometime this year.

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Farm to school programs improve nutrition for children who participate in the school lunch program and lead to significant changes in the young people’s eating habits – particularly important as our country faces an epidemic of childhood obesity.

“We know that we need to do a better job of ensuring that school food programs provide the best food possible for children,” Fitzgerald stated in a NSAC press release. “This is the rallying call of many prominent dietitians, educators and doctors, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama. Food sourced from local farms is freshest and, combined with teaching children about where their food comes from, provides children the knowledge they need to make good food choices for the rest of their lives.”

K.C. Compton
5/6/2010 9:52:42 AM

Thanks! We'll try to keep on top of it, and if you hear anything locally,let us know. AND let your leadership know you care and support such measures. I think we can and will turn this childhood nutrition monster around, but not unless we as the citizen community make it plain that we expect nothing less for our kids. And of course, GRIT wants to make sure it's our local farmers and market-gardeners who are doing the feeding. :=]

Mountain Woman
5/6/2010 9:12:35 AM

I do hope it gets passed. It's definitely a win-win situation. Sen. Leahy has long been a champion of farmers here in Vermont where we have such a strong movement to eat and buy local products. Children definitely benefit from having fresh, nutritious food instead of packaged junk. Thanks for keeping us aware of this bill.

S.M.R. Saia
5/5/2010 5:34:32 PM

K.C., thanks for this post. My daughter is rapidly approaching school age and one of my biggest concerns about the public school system is the food. We are far from perfect around here with what we eat, but we do our best, and the idea of turning her loose into the school system's current food program is quite frankly very upsetting to me. I hope that this bill helps!

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