At Last, A New Farm Bill

July 10, 2008

By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director

After months and months of debate, a protracted conference committee negotiation, a Presidential veto and then an override of the veto, we have a new farm bill. The bill contained several provisions of interest to the Healthy Schools Campaign, including:

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program: Sec. 4304 provides $1.02 billion over 10 years for expansion of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to all 50 states and the District of Columbia and $3 million for evaluation of the program. Each state will receive a minimum grant of 1% of the funds made available to carry out the program in a given fiscal year, plus additional funding based upon the population of a state. Funding available: by 10/1/08, $40 million; by 7/1/09, $65 million; by 7/1/10, $101 million; by 7/1/11, $150 million; by 7/1/12 and thereafter, $150 million + Consumer Price Index adjustment. States are responsible for selecting elementary schools to participate and required to ensure that, in each participating school, no less than 50 percent of students are eligible for free- or reduced-price meals.

Minimum Purchases of Fruits, Vegetables and Nuts through Section 32 to Support Domestic Nutrition Assistance Programs: Sec. 4404 requires the USDA to purchase fruits, vegetables and nuts for the purpose of providing nutritious foods for use in domestic nutrition assistance programs under section 32. This provision increases the minimum threshold for Section 32 purchases of fruits, vegetables, and nuts from $390 million in FY2008 to $406 million per year in FY2012. (The current minimal level is approximately $200 million per year.) Of the Sec. 32 funds, the USDA must use not less than $50 million per year to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for schools and other institutions.

– Purchases of Locally Produced Foods: Sec. 4302 encourages schools receiving federal funds for their meal programs to purchase locally produced fruits and vegetables to the maximum extent practicable and appropriate.

Whole Grain Purchases for School Meals: Sec. 4305 instructs the USDA to purchase whole grains and whole grain products for use in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The section also instructs the USDA to evaluate whether children participating in the school meal programs increased their consumption of whole grains as a result; which whole grains are most acceptable to children participating in the school meal programs; and recommendations for integrating whole grain products into the school meal programs.

Survey of Foods Purchased by School Food Authorities: Sec. 4307 provides $3 million for FY09 for the USDA to carry out a nationally representative survey of the foods purchased by school food authorities during the most recent school year for which data is available.

The farm bill is available on-line at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.06124:

Thanks to our national allies, the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, the Community Food Security Coalition and the School Nutrition Association for keeping the pressure on Congress for a farm bill that supports healthy eating among children during this long, protracted debate.