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Bipartisan Effort Advances Farm to School Act to Enrich Student Diets and Support Local Agriculture

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In a significant bipartisan endeavor, Democratic Congresswoman Stacey E. Plaskett and her Republican counterpart, Congressman Marc Molinaro of New York, have collaboratively introduced a groundbreaking bill, the Farm to School Act. The essence of this legislation is to markedly enhance the presence of fresh, locally sourced produce in educational institutions throughout the United States. A key proposal of this bill is the augmentation of the Farm to School program’s funding, escalating it from $5 million to $10 million to benefit school-age children.

Highlighting the vital role of this initiative, Congresswoman Plaskett remarked, “The burgeoning interest in Farm to School programs underscores a growing recognition of the interplay between locally sourced foods and the cognitive health of our youth. The Farm to School Grant Program empowers schools, nonprofit entities, and government bodies at local, state, and tribal levels to integrate fresh, locally grown foods into student meals.”

Plaskett further delineated the economic and educational advantages of the program. “The Farm to School Act is a foundational strategy for nourishing our children while revitalizing local economies. Since its inception, this program has funneled over $52 million into diverse projects nationwide, impacting nearly 21 million students across 47,000 schools, including those in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This Act extends the reach of nutritious, local food to millions of students and simultaneously offers an economic boon to our small-scale farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Teaming up with Congressman Molinaro on this bipartisan legislation underscores our unified commitment to fostering a healthier, more equitable future.”

Sommer Sibilly-Brown, the visionary founder and executive director of the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, shared her insights on the program’s transformative impact. She noted, “While Farm to School isn’t a panacea for all the challenges in our food system, it’s a significant positive step. It enhances healthy food access for our youth, supports small-scale farmers and local food economies, facilitates knowledge transfer through innovative learning methods, and strengthens community ties. In the Virgin Islands, Farm to School is seen as a crucial component in building a resilient food system. The federal funding dedicated to this initiative boosts our local food economy and aids in reducing dependency on imported foods.”

Karen Spangler, Policy Director at the National Farm to School Network (NFSN), emphasized the wider community benefits. “Farm to school and farm to early childhood programs address several critical community issues, including children’s health, local economic growth, and educational engagement. The Farm to School Act of 2023 aims to broaden access and provide sustained funding, enabling the grant program to reach a wider array of projects nationwide.”

Hannah Quigley, a policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), applauded the bill’s commitment to strengthening local food systems. “Nationwide Farm to School programs are vital in fortifying local food economies, offering nutritious food options, and fostering a health-conscious culture among students. The Farm to School Act of 2023 is a response to the increasing demand from cafeteria managers and farmers to supply top-quality, locally produced food for students. We commend Representatives Plaskett and Molinaro for their dedication to investing in healthy communities.”

Congressman Molinaro also expressed his support, noting, “The Farm to School program represents a dual benefit — it creates economic opportunities for local farmers while ensuring a consistent supply of fresh, nutritious food in our schools. I am honored to be part of this initiative, which seeks to expand the program’s impact through additional investments.”

The Farm to School Act of 2023 is garnering support from key organizations such as the National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. For further details and updates on the bill, H.R. 6308, interested parties can follow this link: Congress.gov – H.R. 6308.

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