By Natalie Talis, Policy Associate
On Wednesday, the House Education and Workforce Committee held its first hearing in preparation for the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). With the current bill set to expire at the end of September 2015, the “Serving Students and Families through Child Nutrition Programs” hearing focused on key child nutrition programs, including farm to school.
Committee members discussed flexibility for school nutrition administrators, public-private partnerships and hunger as a barrier to academic achievement. And members on both sides of the aisle called out farm to school as an important tool for school meals.
Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA) commented that in his district, the addition of fresh, local products such as collard greens and sweet potatoes in school meals increased consumption of fruits and vegetables by students. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) saw similar results in his district, with a 10 percent increase in school lunch participation after the introduction of local products and a salad bar. This increase in participation has created additional revenue for the school and improved its economic viability.
In her witness testimony, Julia Bauscher, president of the School Nutrition Association, agreed that kids eat what they know. She said this happens as kids become more familiar with fruits and vegetables through farm to school taste-tests, agriculture education and school gardens. Responding to a question from Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) – one of the champions of the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 – the First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, added that many students do not know where their carrots and peaches come from until they meet farmers. She has seen farm to school help students build healthy habits, and commented that it’s an important tool for supporting farmer incomes and local economies in her state.
Committee members also commented on successful farm to school programs they have seen in their districts during school and farm tours. As Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) stated, “this is really a bipartisan issue,” and a win-win-win for kids, farmers and communities.
The National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms. The benefits of farm to school were heard in Wednesday’s hearing, and we will continue to work to make sure they are part of the conversation as this critical legislation is developed.
Join us in asking Congress to continue and expand upon the success of farm to school with the Farm to School Act of 2015.