The Farm Bill approved by the Senate today included two provisions authored by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to advance farm-to-school efforts nationwide, and to help to fight hunger.
"Fresh, healthy and locally-grown food should be at the top of the shopping lists for schools in Oregon and across the country," Wyden said. "Under this provision, states already involved with farm-to-school efforts will have the opportunity to demonstrate new and innovative ways to deliver fresh and local produce to schoolchildren, and to serve as models for other schools around the country."
The farm-to-school provision will establish a competitive pilot program with at least five demonstration projects, each representing a different region of the country. These demonstration projects will help schools and local school food authorities source healthy, local produce for the breakfasts, lunches or snacks served to students. Recognizing the growing obesity epidemic among children in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics supported this amendment during last year's Farm Bill debate, citing its effective approach to supporting child nutrition.
Another Wyden provision will make gleaners eligible for USDA-backed microloans to purchase the equipment such as refrigerators or vehicles needed to expand their efforts. Gleaners collect food that would otherwise be thrown away and donate it to food banks or other institutions that deliver food directly to those in need. Over 34 million tons of food was wasted nationwide in 2010. Often, these gleaners lack the vehicles or refrigeration equipment needed to expand and serve their communities. These microloans of $500 to $5,000 will give help provide access to capital necessary to improve operations and to assist more people.
"For a lot of gleaners, the only thing standing in the way of getting meals to people in need is the limitation on the equipment they have on hand," Wyden said. "Small loans for additional refrigeration or a vehicle to transport perfectly good food that would otherwise end up in landfills or incinerators could go a long way toward expanding their operations and feeding more people."
The House of Representatives still must pass the Farm Bill before the House and Senate come together in conference. A one-year extension of the Farm Bill expires on September 1, 2013.