May 13, 2021

Wyden, Welch Introduce Legislation to Improve Child Nutrition

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and U.S. Representative Peter Welch, D-Vt., today introduced the Local School Foods Expansion Act, legislation to improve child nutrition by expanding access to locally-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables for school meal programs.

Students deserve every resource to ensure their academic success, and their physical well-being is a key piece to the puzzle. Every child should have access to healthy, fresh meals, no matter their zip-code or their family’s income,” Wyden said. “I will keep pushing to expand innovative child nutrition programs, like the one I helped create in the 2014 Farm Bill, with the goal of reaching every student.”

“Farm-to-school programs effectively support our family farmers, reduce energy use, help maintain open land, and provide healthy food and educational opportunities for our students,” said Welch. “This commonsense legislation will expand access to locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables to even more schools and communities.”

The Local School Foods Expansion Act directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a program for at least 14 participating states and school food authorities to purchase locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables with existing National School Lunch Program funds. The legislation expands a successful pilot program Wyden and Welch included in the 2014 Farm Bill that was shown to help schools buy and serve a wider variety of fresh produce.

Karen Spangler, Policy Director, National Farm to School Network: “The Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetable Pilot has offered participating schools the opportunity to choose their own purchasing relationships with local producers, getting more local, fresh, and unprocessed or minimally processed products to kids. Thanks to leadership from Senator Wyden and Congressman Welch, the Local School Foods Expansion Act will nearly double the number of states with access to this flexibility and provide vital technical assistance to maximize its impact. Thanks to the leadership of this bill’s sponsors, the Local School Foods Expansion Act builds on what we’ve learned in the pilot and from the work of NFSN’s state partners; moreover, it will make sure these funds help support small producers, Tribal producers, and equitable access for all kids.”

Wes King, Senior Policy Specialist, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: “Providing states and schools more flexibility when it comes to using existing school meal resources to source fresh fruits and vegetables from local and regional producers is a win-win-win for farmers, communities and students. Expanding and making permanent the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables will help states and schools across the country harness the growing interest in farm-to-school programing while building new markets for family farmers.”

Jeff Ashmun, Area General Manager, Sodexo School Services: “This program is unique and one of the only ways to effectively take USDA commodity dollars and turn them into fresh local produce. The product that our local farmers produce is exceptional and cutting the travel time and carbon footprint is a significant benefit. This is a monumental paradigm shift in how we look at USDA funding support and represents one of the first major innovations in this area in two decades.”

Fatima Jawaid, Policy Advocate, Hunger-Free Oregon: “Hunger-Free Oregon has heard from families about the positive impacts a nutritious school meal can have for kids across Oregon. We support making sure that kids can access meals made with locally grown and produced fruits and vegetables, by passing the Local School Foods Expansion Act and ensuring funding for Oregon's Farm to School Network.” 

A copy of the bill text is available here.

A one-page summary is available here.