January 20, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ferd Hoefner (NSAC) 202-547-5754
Erin McGuire (NFSN) 207-749-7249
Senate Bill Offers Hope for a Child Nutrition Act reauthorization in 2016
Washington, DC, January 20, 2016 – In a critical first step forward, the Senate Agriculture Committee will today begin markup of their draft of the long-delayed Child Nutrition Act reauthorization. The bill contains increased support for summer feeding programs as well as for farm to school activities, including a $5 million per year increase (from $5 to $10 million) in annual grant funding for the Farm to School Grant Program.
“Farm to school programs are a great way to help introduce kids to healthier eating habits and teach them about where their food comes from,” said Erin McGuire, Policy Director at the National Farm to School Network. “We applaud the Senate Agriculture Committee’s decision to expand the reach of the Farm to School Grant program by providing this additional funding,” McGuire said.
The Farm to School Grant Program provides grants to increase local food purchases for school meal programs and to expand educational food and agriculture activities. The grant program was introduced as part of the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, and was supported by robust national advocacy efforts from food and farm groups including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the National Farm to School Network (NFSN). Unfortunately, in the first three years of the program’s operation only 20 percent of farm to school grant applicants were able to receive awards due to limited funding.
“The demand in recent years for farm to school programs has far outstripped available funds,” said Alyssa Charney, Policy Specialist at NSAC. “Thanks to the Committee’s decision to double available funding for grant awards, we could see farm to school programming expand to reach an additional 3 million students nationwide. This will dramatically expand opportunities for students, schools, and local farmers,” Charney said.
The call to increase funding for the Farm to School Grant Program was one of the primary asks of the Farm to School Act of 2015. The bipartisan act had broad public support and was championed last year by Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). In addition to the funding increase, the Senate’s draft bill includes additional recommendations from the Farm to School Act including: creating greater program accessibility, adding flexibility for location of farm to school sites (including pre-schools and summer/after-school programs), and increasing marketing opportunities for beginning, socially disadvantaged, tribal, and veteran farmers.
“The more we bring local, healthy food into our schools, the greater the positive ripple effect,” said Sunny Young Baker, Mississippi Farm to School Co-State Lead. “Increased farm to school funding helps schools serve healthier foods, gets families cooking together, helps farmers grow their businesses, and is a great investment in the health of our small town communities,” Baker said.
Lawmakers in both houses have limited time to pass a joint Child Nutrition Act reauthorization; if a bill cannot be agreed upon in the current legislative cycle funding levels for farm to school and other child nutrition programs will remain stagnant. NSAC and NSFN commend Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for their action on this important legislation and urge their counterparts in the House Education & Workforce Committee to move forward with their version of the bill.
About the National Farm to School Network (NFSN)
The National Farm to School Network is the leading voice for the U.S. farm to school movement, working as an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and preschools. To meet your state lead and learn more about what farm to school activities are happening in your region, visit farmtoschool.org.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more: https://sustainableagriculture.net
The National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act (CNR), with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.
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