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Federal policy opportunities to expand support for farm to school
Farm to school is a common sense approach to child nutrition that empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. As Congress begins the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR), we have an important opportunity to leverage federal policy to support and grow farm to school activities.
Together with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and our networks of partners and supporters across the country, we call on all Members of Congress to show their commitment to the well-being of our nation’s kids, family farmers, and food-producing communities by strengthening farm to school opportunities in the next CNR. Here’s how.
In the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, Congress established mandatory funding of $5 million annually for a farm to school competitive grant and technical assistance program. The USDA Farm to School Grant Program increases the use of and improves access to local foods in schools – thus boosting farm income and economic opportunities – while also fostering experiential food education for our nation’s children. Since making its first awards in 2013, the program has received more than 1,900 applications requesting over $141 million in support. With only $5 million in mandatory funding available annually, the Farm to School Grant Program has been forced to turn away roughly 80 percent of qualified applications. Congress must build on the success of farm to school by strengthening the grant program’s scope and providing $15 million per year in mandatory funding.
The Farm to School Act of 2019 will:
Increase annual funding to $15 million and increase grant award maximum to $250,000
Advance equity by prioritizing grants that engage diverse farmers and serve high-need schools
Fully include early care and education sites, summer food service sites & after school programs
Increase access among tribal schools to traditional foods, especially from tribal producers
Schools across the country are eager and ready to put more local food on students’ plates. While some schools can purchase and/or preference locally produced foods using the current geographic preference option, many school food service providers find it burdensome and confusing to implement. The Kids Eat Local Act would give schools a new, easier way to procure local food and farm products through which they could go beyond preferencing certain products and instead explicitly specify “locally grown,” “locally raised” or “locally caught” in their procurement language – substantially improving market opportunities for local farmers and food producers, and resulting in fresher, healthier food in the cafeteria. The Kids Eat Local Act directly responds to what schools have been asking for: greater flexibility to purchase and serve local foods from the farmers right in their own communities.
The Kids Eat Local Act WILL:
Bring more local food into school meal and child nutrition programs
Reduce burdensome red tape, making it easier for schools to source local food
Provide market opportunities for local family farmers, ranchers and fishermen
The Kids Eat Local Act WILL NOT:
Raise the cost of school meal programs
Require schools to have a farm to school program
Define “local” (each school would be allowed to define it themselves)
Join us in urging Members of Congress to support these forward-looking pieces of legislation and ensure support for farm to school in the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization to improve healthy food choices and educational efforts for children and economic opportunities for farmers.
Ask Your Senators & Representative to Co-Sponsor the Bills
Step 1: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Step 2: Ask to be connected with your member of Congress's office. Not sure who your members of Congress are? (Note: You have 3!) Give the Switchboard your zipcode and they can help point you in the right direction. Or, look up your Senators and Representative here and give them a call directly.
Step 3: Leave a message for your Senators and Representative like this:
“Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent and a ____ [farmer, parent, teacher, etc.]. I’d like to ask [your legislator’s name] to co-sponsor two complementary bills that will help bring healthy, local food into our schools: the Farm to School Act of 2019 (S. 2026, H.R. 3562) and the Kids Eat Local Act of 2019 (S.1817, H.R. 3230). This issue matters to me because ____ [tell your story!]. Thank you!”
Do you represent a school, nonprofit organization, business or advocacy group interested in supporting the Farm to School Act of 2019 and Kids Eat Local Act? If so, please add your organization’s name to our organizational sign-on letter to Congress.
Download this fact sheet outlining the research-based benefits of farm to school
Join our network to receive our newsletters and stay up-to-date on farm to school policy new and action opportunities
National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.