New Farm Bill Encourages Schools to Buy Local

August 15, 2008

By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director

Often some of the simplest issues get tied up and delayed in bureaucratic nightmares when multiple government agencies are involved. This has been the case on the very simple question of allowing school districts that participate in the federal school food program to make the decision to purchase from local farmers. 

In previous Farm Bills, Congress tried to establish a policy to permit local procurement, only to have USDA policy contradict this attempt. After much debate and wrangling on the issue, it now appears that the USDA, Congress and hopefully state agencies are on the same page.

On July 9, the USDA Food and Nutrition program issued a ruling clearly allowing schools to establish geographic preference in procurement. The ruling states:

“The Secretary shall allow schools to use a geographic preference for the procurement of unprocessed agricultural products, both locally grown and locally raised.”

Healthy Schools Campaign believes that local procurement can be an important strategy for providing the freshest and best-tasting fruit and vegetables to students.  With rising transportation costs – and rising childhood obesity levels – it is vital that we provide school districts with this opportunity.