Newly introduced legislation backed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers would expand the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Grant Program to include preschools and summer food service programs.
Sens. Patrick Leahy , D-Vt., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Reps. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, said they introduced the Farm to School Act of 2015 to improve access to healthy local foods in schools and help family growers. The identical House and Senate bills are aimed for inclusion in the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, according to a release from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Farm to School Network.
The legislation seeks an increase mandatory funding from $5 million to $15 million for the Farm to School Grant Program.
"We tried to keep it within the ballpark of what might be doable, and with the strong support two former chairmen of the Senate Agriculture Committee with Mr. Cochran and Mr. Leahy, I think it gives it some real oomph," said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Washington, D.C.
While there will not be much new funding available for 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation, the farm-to-school movement has strong political support, he said March 16. Farm to school funding is less polarizing than the debate over nutrition standards in school meals, he said, including the question on whether to preserve the mandatory half cup serving of fruits or vegetables in school meals.
"Whether members of Congress are strongly for keeping the nutrition standards as they are or whether they want more flexibility, everybody supports farm to school," Hoefner said. "There should be wide bipartisan support."