Representatives Josh Harder (CA-10), Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1), Alma Adams (NC-12), and Chellie Pingree (ME-1) have introduced the Kids Eat Local Act, a bipartisan bill which would cut red tape and allow local schools to buy local foods. Federal regulations currently make it hard for schools to give preference to local farmers when buying food for school lunches. A bipartisan companion bill is also being introduced in the Senate.
“Local schools should be able to buy local produce for our kids – that’s common sense – but for too long, red tape has gotten in the way,” said Rep. Harder. “This bill would get rid of these useless bureaucratic rules and make sure that our kids can get healthy local produce while also supporting our local farmers. It’s a bipartisan win-win and it’s time we made this into law.”
Current law does not allow school systems to ask for “local” produce when buying foods for school lunches. Schools can use a geographic preference option, but legislators said it is typically underutilized because of unnecessary red tape.
“An exciting trend we are seeing across America is the growth of the farm-to-table movement––connecting local farmers to the local community,” said Rep. Fortenberry. “Current law, however, does not allow school systems to request ‘local’ produce when buying food for school lunches. The Kids Eat Local Act allows schools to use ‘locally grown,’ ‘locally raised,’ and ‘locally caught’ in procurement requests—and I am happy to help lead it.”
The Kids Eat Local Act is endorsed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, FoodCorps, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Farm to School Network, National Farmers Union, Slow Food USA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and Full Plates, Full Potential.
It would allow schools to use “locally grown, locally raised, and locally caught” in procurement requests. Farmers, businesses, and educators have repeatedly made requests for location-based product specifications in procurement. The bill has no cost for the federal government or school meals programs.