WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Kids Eat Local Act, legislation to help increase schools access to locally grown foods by providing flexibility around the use of geographic preference in the National School Lunch Program. This would make it easier for schools to source “locally grown, locally raised and locally caught” food and farm products for their meal programs. U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) have introduced the House version of the bill.
Current law does not allow schools to ask for “local” as a product specification in food procurement requests. And while schools are allowed to use a geographic preference option, that system has proven to be confusing and burdensome to school food service providers, and hence is underutilized. The Kids Eat Local Act would improve the existing geographic preference option by providing a common-sense reform that would allow ‘local’ as a product specification, helping eliminate unnecessary red tape and getting more locally grown foods in school lunchrooms.
“Ohio farmers grow some of the best produce in the country,” said Senator Brown. “This legislation will increase locally grown foods in our school lunchrooms while strengthening our farms and rural communities.”
“Local food is fresh, healthy, and supports communities. Current law, however, makes it difficult for schools to purchase ‘locally grown,’ ‘locally raised,’ or ‘locally caught’ food to serve to their students,” said Senator Collins. “Our commonsense legislation would provide greater flexibility for schools; increase students’ access to fresh local food; and create new markets for our agricultural families, farmers, and fishermen.”
“Our children deserve healthy, nutritious lunches that are made with ingredients from their backyards—not highly processed foods,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01). “In the midst of an increase in diabetes and obesity in this country, it is critical to provide kids with healthy choices in the lunchroom. This bill is a commonsense solution that not only keeps our schoolchildren healthy, but also promotes new business for local farms and helps families to learn about the healthy foods grown in their communities.”
“One of the important, exciting trends we are seeing across our country is the growth of the farm-to-table movement, connecting rural to urban, farmers directly to consumers,” said Rep. Fortenberry, Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration. “I support this effort to incentivize schools to buy more of their food from local sources.”
The Kids Eat Local Act is supported by a number of school food procurement specialists around the country, including:
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
- National Farm to School Network
- National Farmers Union
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and
- Slow Food USA