Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), David Perdue (R-GA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), introduced legislation to extend a key nutrition program for school-aged children. The bipartisan Farm to School Act of 2019 would increase the federal resources committed to helping bring fresh, local foods to schools nationwide. It also helps set the stage for action as Congress begins the process of reauthorizing child nutrition programs.
“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 and reducing childhood obesity.”
The program is administered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and authorizes federal grants to help schools around the country plan and implement farm to school programs. Grant applications have exceeded the funding available for the program. Since 2013, USDA has received more than 1,900 applications requesting over $141 million. But less than a quarter of the grant applications received for the program can be funded each year.
The Farm to School Act of 2019 would raise the program’s authorized level from $5 million to $15 million and increase the maximum grant award to $250,000. The legislation also expands the scope of the program to include pre-schools, summer food service programs, and after-school programs, and it enhances access to tribal foods and other farming such as aquaculture. The legislation also helps grantees improve procurement and distribution of local food.
In Maine during the 2013-2015 academic year, 79 percent of Maine school districts reported participation in farm to school programs.
Leading national advocacy groups have supported this bipartisan bill, including the National Farm to School Network, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the National Education Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, FoodCorps, the American Heart Association, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the National Farmers Union.