Says Program Logical Part of Wider Effort to Improve Child Nutrition, Fight Child Hunger
Washington, DC- Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is supporting an initiative that enlists Colorado's local farmers in the effort to provide kids with safe and healthy food at school.
The Growing Farm to School Programs Act, introduced today by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), would help connect school food service providers with producers in their areas by providing limited federal grants and technical assistance for school districts and small and medium sized farms to develop new Farm to School programs.
"Farm to School Programs are an efficient, cost-effective way to provide our kids with safe, healthy food at school," Bennet said "We must work to simultaneously end child hunger in Colorado and make sure our kids are healthy and ready to learn. This is one important piece of that effort."
"Connecting schools with local food producers makes perfect sense-for the health of our children, our land, our farms, and our communities. Hopefully, schools can soon become a stable and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers," said Jim Dyer Producer Coordinator of Colorado Farm to School and a Sheep & Wool Grower in Hesperus, Colorado.
"LiveWell Colorado supports the Growing Farm to School Programs Act, which will help ensure that all the nation's children have healthy school food. In Colorado, our levels of childhood obesity and poverty are quickly on the rise, a trend that is evident across the country. Now more than ever, we need to improve the relationships between schools and local food producers in order to offer the most nutritious food possible at our schools," said Maren Stewart, President and CEO of LiveWell Colorado.
"With epidemic levels of childhood obesity, bringing locally produced food -- which is also the freshest most nutritious food available -- to our children is of paramount importance. Farm to School is a critical component of strategies needed to grow healthy children," said Dr. Lyn Kathlene, co-chair, National Advisory Committee, Leadership for Healthy Communities, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The bill would improve upon the existing farm to school authorization by establishing a competitive grant and technical assistance program to increase the use of local foods from small and medium sized farms in schools; improving the relationships between schools and local food providers; and providing mandatory funding and require that grant recipients provide a local match to ensure serious commitment to the project.
Colorado's farmers and ranchers would benefit by accessing reliable, sustainable markets and by selling directly to schools and in their communities, which would give them a higher return and keep more money in the local economy. Most farmers earn just 20 cents of every food dollar America spends, but a farm to school farmer might earn as much as 60 to 70 cents of that procurement dollar.