Opening Statement Specialty Crops, Organics And Research

Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Hearing on “the State of Nutrition in America”

Thank you, Chairman Booker for today’s hearing. We are still in the midst of a pandemic that has seen food insecurity rise, and children left behind. I am proud of the efforts we have seen to try to meet the hunger needs of those struggling in our communities. This includes the historic investment in child nutrition programs currently included in the Build Back Better Act, which will increase access to school and summer meals for millions of children. But we need to do more than just get food on the table for these families. It needs to be healthy and nutritious food, particularly grown locally. Unfortunately, in many instances this is simply not the case. We need a coordinated effort from the federal government down to the local level that prioritizes making sure that all Americans have access to nutritious foods, while simultaneously bolstering regional supply chains that can best deliver these foods to their communities.

This is particularly true for in our schools. I’m sure many of our outstanding witnesses today can tell us about how important it is to the health outcomes and dietary habits of children that school meals include healthy and locally grown food. My state of Vermont has a strong tradition of farmers providing healthy and local choices in our supermarkets. Despite their prevalence, many of our schools still struggle to include these products in school lunches. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the USDA Foods in School Program spending goes to just 15 multinational corporations. These corporations have been plagued by supply chain disruptions that have caused food shortages in schools across the country. This shows the need to create more resilient regional supply chains, lower procurement barriers, and make it easier for local and small scale producers to help feed children. I am thankful for Chairman Booker’s recent leadership on this issue to work with the USDA to ensure that more schools have the opportunity to work with their local farmers. I have also long championed the Farm to School program, which strengthens and supports this link between local farmers and students. Schools are effective and currently underutilized settings for nutrition policies. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses about how programs like Farm to School can improve the nutrition outcomes of children.

Thank you to you all for your participation in this hearing. It is clear that more needs to be done to get our children the healthy foods they need and deserve. I look forward to working across the aisle to ensure your testimony and answers are taken into account as we continue to debate Child Nutrition Reauthorization and nutrition reform in this committee. 

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