April 20, 2010
In an important step forward for local purchasing by federal nutrition programs, the USDA today released a proposed rule on a geographic preference option that would allow institutions who receive federal Child Nutrition funds to give extra points to unprocessed locally grown or raised products in the procurement process.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will be taking comments on the proposed rule until June 18, 2010. You can submit comments online here or see the full proposed rule for information on how to submit by fax or mail.
This rulemaking follows from an amendment in the 2008 Farm Bill directing the Secretary of Agriculture to encourage local sourcing by institutions in the Child Nutrition Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs, among others.
According to the proposed rule, “Local purchasing power not only supports increasing economic opportunities for local farmers but also helps schools and other institutions include wholesome food choices which will encourage children to make healthy food choices.”
The proposed rule specifically defines what constitutes “unprocessed agricultural products” and includes a full list of acceptable food handling and preservation techniques that do not “alter the inherent character of the agricultural product.”
As an example, ground and frozen meat or poultry would be acceptable to include in a geographic preference option, but the preference could not apply to a ready-to-prepare meat patty according to the proposal. Peeled and cut carrots qualify for a geographic preference because that de minimus processing makes the carrot more attractive to children and more likely to be eaten but has not changed the carrot in any fundamental way.
Under the proposed rule, institutions have the discretion to define the “local” area for which the preference applies.
Categories: Local & Regional Food Systems