Leahy And Cochran Re-Introduce Bill To Renew And Expand Farm To School Program

. . . Leahy-Authored Program Has Helped Make Vermont A National Leader In Bringing Nutritious Local Foods To School Cafeterias

U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) Wednesday re-introduced their legislation to extend a key nutrition program for school-aged children.  The bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2017 will increase federal resources that bring fresh and nutritious local foods to schools across the country.

Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is the author of the existing Farm to School program.  Cochran is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and both senators are former Agriculture Committee chairs.  Leahy and Cochran first partnered in 2015 to introduce the legislation.

Leahy said:  “Farm to school programs have a proven track record to help address hunger in America.  Nearly half of all school districts participate in farm to school activities because this program both encourages healthier eating habits among children, and supports local farmers.  It’s a natural partnership with benefits all around.  Children, communities, farmers and schools all win under this formula.  The Farm to School Act of 2017 will build on and extend these successes.  Hungry children cannot learn.  Providing security to our children goes beyond having roofs over their heads.  It means making sure they don’t go hungry.  It also means offering healthy choices to help form healthy lifestyles.  Vermont has been a leader in forging farm-to-school partnerships, and many of the improvements in this bill are drawn from those successes.”

Cochran said:  “Our Farm to School legislation would make it easier for local farms to grow more food for local schools.  Schoolchildren across the country can have greater access to locally-grown meat, fish, and produce, which can be particularly beneficial for students in underserved and rural areas.”

The Farm to School program, administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), authorizes federal grants to help schools across the country plan and implement farm to school programs.  Nationally, more than 40,000 schools participate in these programs, and 83 percent of Vermont school districts take part in farm to school activities.  Vermont has become a national leader in efforts linking farms to classrooms through organizations like Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED), a partnership of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-Vt.) and Shelburne Farms.

The Leahy-Cochran bill would raise the program’s authorized funding level from $5 million to $15 million and increase the maximum grant award to $200,000.  The legislation also expands the scope of the program to include pre-schools, summer food service programs, and after-school programs, and it enhances access to tribal foods and other farming such as aquaculture.  The legislation also helps grantees improve procurement and distribution of local food.  A counterpart House bill is being introduced today by Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio).

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