In a press release earlier this week, the Department of Agriculture announced new rules designed to encourage the use of locally grown food in school meals. The new rules allow individual schools and districts to give preference to local, organically grown agricultural products when purchasing food for National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, Child and Adult Care, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable, and Summer Food Service programs. The new rules are part of the Healthy, Hunger Free-Kids Act of 2010.
The act, passed unanimously by the Senate in December 2010, allocated nearly $5 billion to fund free lunch programs and child nutrition programs for the next five years. In addition, the act implements new nutritional standards and gives the USDA authority to regulate food standards in schools. The act also dovetails nicely with the USDA’s Know Your Farmer campaign, which seeks to increase local connections between agricultural producers and consumers.
The USDA hopes that these new rules, along with their other efforts to increase local demand for agricultural goods, will help stimulate economic recovery in local areas and will generate agricultural jobs throughout the United States. Currently, the USDA estimates that these programs could help increase consumer demand for locally grown food form $4 billion to as high as $7 billion by the end of 2012.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer