By John Crabtree
Farm to school programs offer children better, fresher, more nutritious, and more local food choices that empower children and their families learn more about the food on their plates and make better food choices. These programs also help strengthen rural and small town economies by creating economic opportunities for local farmers and ranchers as well as local food processors.
As part of the upcoming Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, Congress needs to build on the success of farm to school by strengthening and expanding the program’s scope and by providing additional mandatory funding. Earlier this year, Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) took a huge step in that direction when they introduced the Farm to School Act to expand and strengthen the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant programs. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
As Rep. Fortenberry explained at the time, schools throughout Nebraska and across the U.S. are eagerly embracing local foods from local farms, with more than 10,000 schools participating in Farm to School programs nationally. The Farm to School Act will also expand existing USDA Farm to School Grant programs to include preschools and summer and after school programs. The Center for Rural Affairs applauds Rep. Fortenberry, Rep. Fudge, Senator Cochran and Senator Leahy for their effort to promote the use of fresh, locally produced food in even more schools and educational programs.