ATHENS COUNTY, OH — Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) made two stops in Athens County, Ohio:
Brown first joined school officials and other local partners at Federal Hocking Middle School’s Farm-to-School program to celebrate the program and discuss his efforts to support local agriculture and address child hunger.
“It’s a pretty simple idea: Why should Ohio school districts buy raspberries from California or beef from Oklahoma, when they could buy them from a farm or a ranch in Athens County? That’s why a decade ago we created the Farm to School Program, to help schools across the country start programs like this one. But we know there are still barriers that stand in the way of expanding these efforts. That’s why I’m pushing legislation like my Kids Eat Local Act, to make it easier for school systems to serve local food in their lunchrooms, and to open up new markets to area farmers and producers. It’s good for our kids, good for farmers, and good for taxpayers,” said Brown.
In the summer of 2020, Federal Hocking School District was awarded $98,000 funding from the USDA to support the development of a Farm-to-School Program. Using healthy local produce not only improves the quality of the meals that students eat, it also teaches students to respect the work of local farmers and the importance of supporting the local economy. By increasing the amount of local food provided in cafeterias, the district can feed students well, and create opportunities in agriculture for both students and new markets for farmers and producers. Brown has long supported these programs, and many of them have utilized the Farm Bill programs Brown has consistently fought for. He is the first Ohio senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 50 years.
Brown recently reintroduced his Kids Eat Local Act, bipartisan legislation to support local and regional food systems. The legislation would allow schools to use “locally grown, locally raised, and locally caught” in procurement requests. This bill would help create new markets for farmers and new healthy options for schoolchildren.
Brown also recently introduced the Farm to School Act, legislation to renew an important nutrition program that supports both school-aged children and local producers. The bipartisan bill would build on the successes of the USDA’s Farm to School Program, which supports initiatives that deliver fresh, local foods to schools nationwide.
Brown was joined by David Hanning, Superintendent of Fed Hock School District; Kerri Sheridan-Boyd, Federal Hocking Local Schools Board President; Tom Redfern, Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture Director and partner in F2S program; and Rob Phillips, Rancher, RL Valley Ranch.
“Thank you, Senator Brown, for joining us and visiting our school. We are excited about this program and the positive benefits it has on our students, and community. As we all know the health benefits of eating nutritious local foods are very beneficial. And buying food from the local farmers helps them economically and improves the local economy. We hope to see this program continue with your support,” said Kerry Sheridan-Boyd, the President of the Federal Hocking School Board.
“When we talk to people about a local food system and why it’s important the first thing I try to emphasize is the Farm Bill and its impact on all of us. Sen. Brown’s leadership has consistently included local farms as a key part of the farm Bill. This strategy ensures that small farmers and underserved communities have access to what I consider the best and most secure supply chains we can have; food from our neighbors,” said Tom Redfern, Director of Sustainable Agriculture at Rural Action.
Following this event, Brown then visited Brenen’s Coffee Café in uptown Athens for lunch. This local Ohio company received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds to help small businesses, which helped them weather the pandemic and maintain their workforce.
“This year has been tough for everybody, but we know that small businesses have been among the hardest-hit. I was proud to fight for and secure the PPP funding necessary to help businesses like Brenen’s Coffee Café stay afloat and maintain their workforces,” said Brown. “Now, the most important thing we can do for local economies and businesses is to get people vaccinated. The more Ohioans who get vaccinated, the more businesses can reopen and bolster the community.”
Brown helped write and pass the American Rescue Plan, which included $50 billion in funding to help small businesses keep their doors open and get back on their feet, and assistance to help businesses better understand and navigate the federal programs available to them.
Brown was joined by co-owners Josh and Jessica Thomas.
“We are grateful Senator Brown chose to stop by Brenen’s while visiting the Southeast Ohio area. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk with him and thank him for his efforts in fighting for COVID-19 relief efforts, like the Paycheck Protection Plan, as well as his continued work for Ohio,” said Josh and Jessica Thomas.
Last month, the Small Business Administration started accepting applications for its Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) program, as part of the American Rescue Plan. The RRF provides emergency assistance for eligible restaurants, bars, and other qualifying businesses impacted by COVID-19. Companies affected by COVID-19 can apply for relief HERE.