The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning on expanding its farm-to-school lunch programs, a recent announcement by the organization stated. In recent years, the USDA has sought to improve local nutrition while simultaneously benefiting local agricultural producers and reestablishing local ties between communities and farmers. Programs like the USDA’s Know Your Farmer campaign have been important ways for the USDA to revitalize local production.
Programs seeking to improve childhood nutrition, such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to combat childhood obesity, have been productive ways to reinvigorate local farming. The USDA is currently looking to expand its School Lunch Programs, seeking to use locally grown fruits and vegetables to supply school lunches.
The initial pilot programs will be in Florida and Michigan, in part, USDA spokesman Jimmie Turner says, because those states requested to participate in the test programs. Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putman, for example, actively solicited the USDA to use local produce in school lunches. USDA deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan has described the program as win-win, simultaneously improving nutrition while expanding agricultural markets.
While the details of the plan have not been finalized, the USDA has indicated that they would contract for the produce, while leaving transportation up to local school districts. The group plans to first develop a list of eligible growers and shippers, followed by a request for bids.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer