Bipartisan legislation will drive more resources to the national Farm to School grant program
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation that would renew an important nutrition program that supports both school-aged children and local producers. The Farm to School Act of 2021 would build on the successes of the Farm to School Program, which was authorized in 2010. A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Since 2013, schools and non-profits throughout the State of Maine have received funding through the Farm to School Grant Program to help purchase local food and implement innovative food and wellness lessons for students,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill would ensure that students in Maine and across the country will continue to have access to local and healthy foods while supporting Maine farmers.”
"The Farm to School Act of 2021 couldn’t come at a more necessary time. When the pandemic began, school nutrition professionals, educators, and local food producers – the people who make farm to school work – were some of the very first community members to step up and ensure the ongoing care and support of children and families,” said Karen Spangler, Policy Director, National Farm to School Network. “The measures included in the Farm to School Act will give them much-needed resources to continue their work as we emerge from the pandemic, while helping our country build a more resilient and equitable food system.”
“Over the last 15 years, farm to school programs in the U.S. have helped thousands of schools to connect their students with real, healthy foods. These programs have also served as powerful economic drivers, generating hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue for family farmers each year, according to the most recent USDA Farm to School Census,” said Wes King, Senior Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “The Farm to School Act is the cornerstone of a series of proposals supported by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition that, if included in the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization, would help improve health outcomes for our children and economic outcomes for family farmers across the country.”
The Farm to School Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, supports initiatives that deliver fresh, local foods to schools nationwide. The program was first authored in the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. Grants from the program help schools across the country implement farm to school activities. The popular program is significantly oversubscribed; since 2013, USDA has received nearly 2,000 applications requesting over $141 million. Less than a quarter of grant applications receive funding each year.
The Farm to School Act of 2021 would raise the program’s authorized level of mandatory funding from $5 million to $15 million. It also enhances access to tribal foods and other farming such as aquaculture. The bill will be referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee, which expects to consider child nutrition reauthorization legislation this year.