An Act to Help Schools AND Help Small Farms

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The idea seems simple, and it has been working: try to link local growers with public school food programs located nearby. Eliminate storage times after harvest. Eliminate long-distance trucking. Save money, energy, and—above all—deliver fresh, more-alive, nutritious food to the trays of schoolchildren.

And, by the way, help children learn where food comes from via school gardens, cooking classes, taste tests, hands-on science classes and farm field trips.

For the past four years, the USDA Farm to School Grant Program has provided our nation’s schools with fresh, local food and farm-related activities. The demand from schools for these grants far outstripped the supply. Some inspired national leaders are looking to do something about it.

In an increasingly rare act of bipartisanship and bicameral action, Republican and Democratic Senators and Representatives have introduced the Farm to School Act of 2015 (on February 24, 2015) to increase three-fold the amount of money in the grant pool and increase minority farmer participation in the program.

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) (one the main collaborators on the bill along with the National Sustainable Agriculture Association) has more details on the bill here.

The Farm to School Act of 2015 also makes economic sense, according to Eugene Kim, Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:

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. 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.”

Support for the Act seems strong. The Afterschool Alliance immediately announced...

Farm to school is a proven method for improving the health of our nation's children. Today, more than 23 million students are making healthier food choices at school, afterschool, and at home thanks to farm to school activities like school gardens, cooking classes and incorporating local foods in school meals. Demand for the successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program far exceeds supply. In its first three years, the program received more than 1,000 applications but only had enough funding to award 221 grants. In other words, just one in five projects was funded. 

You can sign a letter of support here. It will be sent to Members of Congress by the two lead organizations behind the Act: National Farm to School Network and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

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