Recognizing the need to improve sourcing of American-grown food products by U.S. schools, National Farmers Union (NFU) applauded the introduction of the “American Food for American Schools Act of 2016.” The legislation aims to enforce provisions of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act that require school nutrition providers to purchase domestically produced and processed foods, to the extent practicable.
“The school lunch laws were designed to ensure all school-age children have access to high quality, nutritious food products, like those grown and produced by U.S. farmers and ranchers. By improving transparency and enforcement of the Buy American provisions, through the American Food for American Schools Act, we can better support both American agriculture and child nutrition,” said NFU Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew.
The legislation, introduced by Representative John Garamendi (D-Calif.), would require school nutrition providers to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should they decide to purchase a foreign food product, differing from the current law which does not require a waiver be requested.
“When school food providers are using U.S. taxpayer money to purchase food, they should be buying American grown foods where possible,” noted Larew.
The bill also directs that notification of the waiver be posted publicly on the school’s website and menu as well as sent to parents of the children who will be served the product. Earlier this year. Rep. Garamendi notified USDA of his concern that the Buy American provisions were not being enforced in California schools.
“Providing USDA with greater authority to enforce farm-to-school lunch programs will help connect more students with fresh, local foods. These programs can also improve understanding of where our food comes from by strengthening local farmer relationships within the community. I urge Congress to support this legislation that will benefit agriculture, education and communities, alike,” Larew concluded.