States help farmers get fresh food into school lunches
LEXINGTON, Ky.— School lunch lines, for the most part, no longer contain items of dubious nutritional value like chicken-fried steak with gravy and snack cakes. Although the quality and freshness of school meals has been steadily improving, states still face challenges in how to get food from the farmer’s fields into the lunchroom.
The Farm-to-School Initiative is a nationwide effort to help local farmers get their produce into school lunchrooms, boosting both agriculture’s bottom line and the nutrition of a school lunches. Farm-to-school programs have increased from fewer than 10 in 1997, to more than 2,000 in 2008. The education policy group at The Council of State Governments has released a new Capitol Facts & Figures report on farm-to-school programs, detailing the many efforts states have made to make local fruits and vegetables easier to get into school lunches.
“What we’ve found is there really is wide variety in the ways states can help school districts,” said Tim Weldon, the report’s author and member of CSG’s education policy staff. “They include everything from establishing a statewide farm-to-school program, which 14 states have done, to providing additional reimbursements for schools that serve local foods, which only California and the District of Columbia are doing. Some states have set up a database of participating schools and growers, which makes connecting the producers and consumers easier.”
“Often, these pieces of legislation or regulation aren’t radical changes to how states have been doing things,” Weldon added. “It’s all about removing the barriers and making it easier for schools that want to bring more fresh food into their food service program.”
The Council of State Governments is our nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships.