By Natalie Talis, Policy Associate
A version of this blog also appeared on the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website.
On Tuesday, June 16th the House Education and Workforce Committee held its third hearing in preparation for the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack was the sole witness addressing the question, “Child Nutrition Assistance: Are Federal Rules and Regulations Serving the Best Interests of Schools and Families?”
As it did in the first hearing in April, farm to school continued to shine as a successful strategy for increasing healthy food consumption in schools and at home, while also supporting farmers and strengthening communities.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) – a champion of the Farm to School Act of 2015 – raised the importance of giving schools flexibility to include farm to school in preschool, summer food and afterschool programs. Secretary Vilsack responded that these additional venues for farm to school activities would not only supply children with the freshest products possible, but they would also provide farmers with a significant market opportunity and would keep school meal dollars in the community. If fully integrated into CNR, the Farm to School Act of 2015 will provide this flexibility and the support schools need to implement it.
Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) expressed concern that too few parents are involved in their children’s nutrition choices. In response, Secretary Vilsack noted that activities like school gardens – a core component of farm to school – get kids excited about fruits and vegetables, and kids bring that enthusiasm home to their families.
This is exactly what is happening in Burke County, Ga., where local grocery markets have asked School Nutrition Director Donna Martin to alert them to what local foods are being featured in the cafeteria and in lessons so they can stock up. Martin told legislative staff at a House briefing on the Farm to School Act of 2015 in April how grocery stores were selling out of local foods featured at school because kids are insisting that their parents purchase it at home too. The benefits of farm to school activities go far beyond the school cafeteria, and the Farm to School Act of 2015 can help ensure these benefits are extended to more communities across the country.
Join us in asking Congress to continue and expand upon the success of farm to school by fully incorporating the Farm to School Act of 2015 in CNR. Together we can make sure that the benefits of farm to school, highlighted in Tuesday’s hearing, are a key part of the conversation as this critical legislation is developed.
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.