Fresh Fruit, Nutrition Ed, Local Purchasing: Senate Farm Bill Includes Some Good News for School Foo

December 18, 2007

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Founding Executive Director

After much debate, the Senate has voted on a farm bill that includes some good news for school food and nutrition education.

The bill expands the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to all 50 states and increases funding from $9 million to $225 million per year. This will expand the number of schools that are able to offer and promote free fresh fruits and vegetables and dried fruit throughout the school day.

As a pilot, this program has been successful in increasing student exposure to fresh produce and increasing student consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. It also introduces children to a variety of fruits and vegetables that they may otherwise not have the opportunity to try, an important part of establishing lifelong healthy eating habits.

This simple step is especially important in a climate where children have easy access to so much unhealthy food and often have limited access to good, fresh produce.

The farm bill also includes a clarification of language that now specifically allows schools to designate a geographic preference in purchasing food. This means that schools can now specifically request locally-grown ingredients in their food purchasing plans.

An important complement to providing fresh, healthy food is offering students the nutrition education that helps them make smart food choices. The farm bill includes funding to encourage the expansion of nutrition education by providing grants to projects that can be replicated in schools. 

The School Nutrition Amendment that I discussed in a previous blog did not come up for a vote, so it will not be part of this year’s farm bill. The activity surrounding the amendment built a strong coalition in support of school nutrition standards and the amendment’s main sponsor, Sen. Harkin, has announced his intention to bring up school nutrition legislation when the Senate re-convenes in January 2008.

Now, the Senate version and House version of the farm bill will go to a committee that will work out differences in the two bills.