One part of student advocacy comes in the form of nutrition and cafeteria standards. There is one organization that stands out in this area – the Farm to School Network. I have written about this organization in past issues, but I’d like to highlight their 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference going on June 2nd – 4th Madison, WI. The mission of this year’s conference is to “source local food for institutional cafeterias and foster a culture of food and agricultural literacy across America.” This movement is gaining traction and several school districts across the US have started implementing locally sourced food for school lunches. The Farm to School Conference has support from USDA Farm to School, Slow Food USA, and School Nutrition Association, Newman Foundation and the WK Kellogg Foundation to name a just a few.
When I first started writing these columns, PUSD offered once local item per month. I recently learned that PUSD has joined the Farm to School Network and our Nutrition Department now offers locally sourced foods every day! You can see what local/fresh items are available each day by choosing the ES Lunch Menu and then selecting at the Vegetable & Fruit Choices right side bar. Sure, there are still those syrupy fruit cups, but maybe you can talk your child into choosing the strawberries or baby carrots that day. To complement their farm fresh items, they offer a recipe that uses some of the featured local Harvest of the Month – check it out – this month is Strawberry.
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. However, demand for the program is more than five times higher than available funding, so we are excited to announce that the Farm to School Act of 2015 has been introduced in Congress.
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 part of the upcoming Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, Congress needs to build on the success of farm to school by strengthening and expanding the program’s scope and by providing additional mandatory funding.
The bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 – Senate bill 569 and House bill 1061 – will continue and expand upon the successes of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program by:
- Providing flexibility to local school districts to include preschools, summer food service program sites, and after school programs in the USDA Farm to School Grant Program (F2S);
- Increasing annual mandatory funding from $5 million to $15 million to better meet the high demand and need for this funding;
- Improving farm to school participation from beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers;
- Enhancing access among tribal schools to farm-fresh and traditional foods, especially from tribal producers; and
- Identifying and eliminating regulatory and other administrative barriers related to the development of farm to school efforts.
To download and print an overview of the Farm to School Act of 2015, see the Farm to School Act of 2015 one pager.