New USDA rule encourages purchase of local farm products for assistance programs
WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced April 26 that its child nutrition programs are implementing new rules designed to encourage use of local farm products in school meals.
The final rule will let schools and other providers give preference to unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products as they purchase food for the national school lunch, school breakfast, special milk, child and adult care, fresh fruit and vegetable, and summer food service programs. The rule is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and one of the key provisions to bolster farm-to-school programs across the country.
“This rule is an important milestone that will help ensure that our children have access to fresh produce and other agricultural products,” said USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “It will also give a much-needed boost to local farmers and agricultural producers.”
The rule supports the USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative, which emphasizes the need for a connection between producers and consumers. The USDA expects consumer demand for locally grown food in the United States to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012.
The agriculture department’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that make up the federal nutrition safety net. Additional information about the programs can be found at www.fns.usda.gov and www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/f2s.