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."