Obamas and New Farm-to-School Dollars Help Bring Local Produce to Schools

October 13, 2009

By Amanda Chablani, HSC Policy Specialist

Vegetable-market

Although the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act has been postponed,
we continue to see a good deal of activity in the school foods arena
–- with input not only from legislators, but also from the Obama  administration.

Michelle Obama has been receiving the most attention lately with her
appearance at a local farmer’s market.
Her activities signify the movement of policy in the administration,
extending their farming activities from working with students in the
White House garden to broad support of local, sustainable agriculture –-
and for making healthy, fresh food available to all Americans.

Also exciting is the recent announcement from Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan that, as part of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative,
the USDA will form Farm-to-School Tactical Teams to help school
administrators buy fresh, local produce. To assist schools in buying local,
the USDA will be making $50 million available to support school districts in making major
changes in their food procurement processes.

There has been similar legislative action, too. Senator Blanche
Lincoln, the new chair of the agriculture committee, has also made some
moves in this area by sponsoring the Healthy Food for Healthy Schools Act,
which requires the Secretary of Agriculture to compile model food
specifications and practices for schools and to research the quality of
foods that schools receive as part of the commodities program.

All
of these activities point to a new direction for school food. While we may have to wait a bit
longer for a strong reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, we’re
already seeing action in the right direction.