Farm to School lobby gets beneficial move from Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 24, 2004: The movement to connect schools and the agricultural community won a major victory when Congress voted to include a new program that will help bring locally-grown food into school meals in the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act.

The program, "Access to Local Foods and School Gardens" builds on the success of over 300 farm to cafeteria programs in 22 states and is based on earlier legislation known as the Farm to Cafeteria Projects Act. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) championed this legislation in the Senate, as did Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ron Kind (D-WI) in the House.

Schools may compete for grant funds to help school food service personnel develop procurement relationships with local farmers and equip their kitchen facilities to handle local foods. The program also supports agriculture-based nutrition education, such as school gardens, to teach students where their food comes from.

The program has the backing of several non-profit organizations representing the food and farm sector.

The Community Food Security Coalition President Sharon Thornberry praised the inclusion as a, "major step forward for restoring high quality nutritious food to our nation's school meal programs and supporting farmers through direct purchase of their products in their own communities.” Kathy Ozer, executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition extolled the new opportunities for farmers. "Family farmers will gain access to an important new market--their local schools--while students better understand the connections between farming and food."

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