Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today introduced the Growing Farm to School Programs Act (S. 3123), a popular proposal to authorize $50 million to USDA to provide start-up funds to communities across the country linking farmers and ranchers to the school lunch program. Senator Leahy’s bill is designed to improve the quality of school lunches while also stimulating local and regional small and medium-sized farms and food systems.
The bill has already been cosponsored by13 senators, including seven members of the Senate Agriculture Committee: Senators Arlen Specter (D-PA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tom Udall (D-NM).
NSAC strongly supports this legislation and is encouraging Senators to join as co-sponsors. The companion bill in the House of Representatives is Rep. Holt’s Farm to School Improvements Act of 2010 (HR 4710).
Farm to school programs have emerged in communities nationwide over the past ten years but their growth has been hampered by the lack of consistent, national funding and support.
“Connecting farms to schools makes sense in so many ways, from economic to nutrition. The school lunch program is a sizable buyer in every community. There is no need to start from scratch….This bill is a catalyst to forge these connections and let them flourish,” said Senator Leahy in a press release today.
The Growing Farm to School Programs Act builds on work that Senators Leahy and Specter began in 2004 encouraging farm to school programs through a provision they wrote, which was included in the 2004 Child Nutrition Act reauthorization.
NSAC will continue to follow the progress of farm to school bills in the House and Senate and work to have mandatory funding for the programs included in the final Child Nutrition reauthorization approved by both Houses.