Senator Steve Saland (R,C Poughkeepsie) today announced he has introduced legislation that would establish the Farm-to-School Enhancement fund (S.7498) to promote a partnership between local farms and school districts.
"The New York State Farm-to-School program promotes the purchase of local farm products in order to increase the purchase of those products by school districts and other educational institutions in the State, as well as promotes greater use of more nutritious products in our schools," said Senator Saland. "Equally important to the program is the need to educate consumers, especially children, to the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables in a nutritious, well-balanced diet."
Although the Farm-to-School program has been received favorably by school districts, the budgets of school breakfast and lunch programs do not necessarily have sufficient resources to contract and purchase products from small and medium size local farms. In an effort to assist schools to meet the goals of the farm-to-school program, supplemental funds are necessary and Saland's legislation would establish a fund for that purpose.
Saland noted that although federal law does not require schools to have school meal programs, federal reimbursement regulations require adherence to nutritional standards. Because school lunch programs are not mandated, however, the majority of school districts expect them to be self-supporting. And while the state budget provides a supplemental appropriation to offset the costs of school food programs, escalating expenses strain the budgets of most programs.
"With the focus being so much today on child obesity and what types of foods are available to young people in our schools, there is a clear need to provide healthy alternatives," Saland continued. "We are not trying to make it a choice between a celery stalk and a package of twinkies - instead, we hope to provide education and the means to stimulate greater interest in New York produce," he concluded.