Leahy And Nutrition Leaders Visit Milton Elementary School To Spotlight His New Bill To Renew And Expand The Farm To School Program

MILTON, Vt. (MONDAY, May 11, 2015) – On Monday, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) visited Milton Elementary School to join students for lunch, while taking the opportunity to spotlight his recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral bill aimed at extending a key nutrition program for school-aged children, in advance of the reauthorization of the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act.  

Leahy, the most senior member of both the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, is the author of the existing Farm to School program, which he championed in the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.  Vermont has since received three federal grants totaling about $300,000, awarded to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Farm and Markets, Milton School District and VT-FEED. 

Leahy said:  “At a time when obesity rates among our kids continue to rise, we need to do more to educate families and their children about the value of healthy, nutritious lifestyles and choices.  One of the best places to do that is in our schools, where we know students form the foundations of lifelong eating habits.” 

Leahy introduced the bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2015 with Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) in February to increase the federal resources committed to helping to bring fresh, local foods to schools.  Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) have also introduced identical legislation in the House.  The bill would raise the mandatory funding level of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program from $5 million to $15 million.  The legislation also addresses the growing demand for farm to school programming and technical support, and it would facilitate expansion of the program to include pre-schools, summer food service programs and after-school programs.  The bill also would help grantees improve procurement and distribution of local food to stimulate local agricultural economies.

Leahy joined the Milton students for a lunch of sloppy joes sourced from Vermont-raised beef and locally grown greens, recipes straight from “New School Cuisine: Nutritious and Seasonal Recipes for School Cooks by School Cooks,” a collaboration between Vermont school food staff and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Vermont State Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross and Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, a representative of VT-FEED (Food Education Every Day), and Milton School District Food Director Steve Marinelli joined Leahy for the event and a visit with school food staff.  Also in attendance were representatives from Hunger Free Vermont, SNA-VT, and the Burlington School Food Project.  Since 2013, Marinelli and Milton Elementary School students have twice visited the White House at the invitation of First Lady Michelle Obama to showcase the Milton farm to school program. 

Statements from those supporting the Farm To School Act of 2015 may be found here, in addition to a fact sheet on the Leahy bill.


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