WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) joined his Senate colleagues last week in introducing bipartisan legislation to get more fresh, locally grown foods in schools across the nation. Brown joined Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), David Perdue (R-GA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in introducing the Farm to School Act, which would expand the farm to school program for school-aged children by making significant investments in the program. Companion legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).
“Ohio farmers grow some of the best produce in the country,” said Senator Brown. “This legislation will increase nutritious, locally grown foods in our school lunchrooms while strengthening farms and rural communities across the country.”
The Farm to School Act would raise the program’s authorized level from $5 million to $15 million, and increase the maximum grant award to $250,000. The bill also sets the stage for action as Congress begins the process of reauthorizing child nutrition programs. This legislation would also help grantees improve procurement and distribution of local food, and expand the scope of the program to include pre-schools, summer food service and after-school programs.
The farm to school program is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and authorizes federal grants to help schools across the country plan and implement farm to school programs. Right now, grant applications have exceeded the funding available for the program. USDA has received more than 1,900 applications requesting over $141 million since 2013. But less than a quarter of the grant applications received for the program can be funded each year.
The Farm to School Act is supported by a number of national organizations and advocacy groups, including Ohio State University, the National Farm to School Network, the National Education Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, FoodCorps, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and the National Farmers Union.
Brown has been working to get more locally grown foods in school lunchrooms. Brown introduced the Kids Eat Local Act with Sen. Collins in July to help increase schools access to locally grown foods by providing flexibility around the use of geographic preference in the National School Lunch Program.