February 11, 2010
Secretary Vilsack’s much anticipated speech at the National Press Club outlining the Administration’s priorities for Child Nutrition Act reauthorization was canceled Monday as the federal government remained snowbound, but excerpts of his comments were made available Tuesday in conjunction with the roll-out of the First Lady’s childhood obesity initiative. Monday’s speech included support for the Farm to School program – support which Vilsack reiterated on a conference call on Wednesday.
“Strengthening the link between local farmers and school cafeterias” is item number seven on the Secretary’s list of what the Administration would like Congress to include in this year’s anticipated reauthorization. Increased access and participation in school lunch and breakfast, improved nutritional quality of all foods in schools, better nutrition information, and technology and funds for cafeterias to buy equipment that will allow them to use more fresh produce in lunches lead the priority list.
Secretary Vilsack reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to an additional $1 billion per year over the next ten years for child nutrition. Nothing issued by the Administration to date, however, designates how exactly they would propose spending the recommended $1 billion a year increase in mandatory funding.
NSAC is working with Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), who will soon introduce a Farm to School reauthorization bill in the House of Representatives, and with Senator Leahy (D-VT), the original sponsor of Farm to School legislation in 2004, who will soon offer a slightly amended version of his original bill. Both the Holt and Leahy bills are expected to include $10 million a year ($50 million over the 5-year life of the reauthorization) in mandatory funding.
Reps. Farr (D-CA) and Putnam (R-FL) have already introduced the Children’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Act of 2009 (H.R. 4333) which includes $50 mandatory funding over five years for farm to school projects nationwide, as well as funding for cafeteria equipment, training and salad bars.
The Farm to School program (originally called Farm to Cafeteria) was authorized by Congress in 2004, but to date has never been funded. Once funded, the program will provide competitive, one-time grants to improve student access to nutritious, locally grown food from area farmers and to assist schools in developing hands-on nutrition education programs.
The release of the Secretary’s Child Nutrition Act reauthorization priorities were timed to coincide with and support the more sweeping agenda to reduce childhood obesity announced by the White House on Tuesday.
Congress is expected to take up the Child Nutrition bill in the coming months.
Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems