New USDA Rule Encourages the Purchase of Local Agricultural Products for Schools

Posted on 04/27/2011 at 12:00 AM by Christa Hartsook

USDA's child nutrition programs are implementing new rules designed to encourage use of local farm products in school meals. The final rule will let schools and other providers give preference to unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products as they purchase food for the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, Child and Adult Care, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable, and Summer Food Service programs.

The rule supports USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative which emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers. The effort builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides for increases and flexibility for USDA programs in an effort to revitalize rural economies by supporting local and regional food systems. 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' is helping to break down barriers that keep local food systems from thriving, create new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities, and expand access to healthy food throughout the country. USDA expects consumer demand for locally grown food in the U.S. to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012.

The Farm to School component of this effort is designed to help connect schools with regional or local farms in order to serve healthy meals using locally-sourced products in their cafeterias. USDA currently is sending teams out to select school districts to work on farm to school issues. Some of these programs also incorporate nutrition-based studies, as well as food-learning opportunities such as farm visits, gardening, cooking, and composting activities.

Additional information about the programs can be found at www.fns.usda.gov and the USDA's Farm to School initiative at: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/f2s/.

Categories: Local/Regional Foods