January 10, 2014
Earlier this week, the National Farm to School Network, an NSAC member group, released a survey of farm to school-related legislation from around the country that has been proposed or enacted by states since 2002. Conducted jointly with Vermont Law School’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, the survey is an update to a similar 2011 survey that NFSN conducted with the Community Food Security Coalition.
The survey, entitled “State Farm to School Legislative Survey: 2002-2013,” provides a summary of each bill, as well as charts categorizing bills by type. The survey demonstrates the variety of legislation helping to educate students about where their food comes from and providing them with local agricultural products for their school meals. From farm to school program funding to task forces, educational activities to local procurement, Farm to School legislation covers the gamut of activities to initiate and operate farm to school programs.
For example, in 2013, Alaska, Montana, and Oregon provided grants for farm to school programs while Mississippi established a farm to school advisory board. Among recent pending legislation, a bill in New York would provide instruction to all elementary and high school students in food, agriculture, and nutrition, while in Texas, school districts would be allowed to give preference to purchasing agricultural products produced, processed, or grown in the state. Examples from other states include legislation establishing studies on the state of agriculture education and directing purchasers statewide to develop protocols for buying local food. Providing links to bill texts, the survey can serve as a resource for those looking to draft new legislation.
Among the findings of the survey are:
The growing interest among state governments to support farm to school programs through legislation is in keeping with skyrocketing popularity of farm to school programs across the country, as featured in October in the USDA Farm to School Census.
With the federal Farm to School program part of the current Child Nutrition Act and about to become a key part of the discussion leading up to the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act in 2015, state support for Farm to School activities working in tandem with the federal program will be important to ensure school districts resources needed to operate farm to school programs successfully. Equally important will be the need for greater flexibility and innovation in food procurement rules. The new survey provides food for thought for future policy directions.