Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, Senator Sherrod Brown Lead Colleagues in Reintroducing Bipartisan, Bicameral Child Nutrition Bill
Legislation Backed by Senator Susan Collins, U.S. Reps. Fortenberry, Harder & Adams Would Encourage Healthy School Meal Choices by Using Locally Sourced Foods
Washington, April 28, 2021
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) today reintroduced the Kids Eat Local Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill to support local and regional food systems and encourage healthy meal choices among school-aged children. The bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Josh Harder (D-Calif.), and Alma Adams (D-N.C.). Companion legislation was reintroduced in the Senate with the bipartisan support of Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“The last year has been challenging for farmers and school nutrition staff as they’ve worked hard to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools work to ensure that children have delicious and healthy meals at school, the last thing they need is confusing rules preventing them from sourcing from local producers,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “The Kids Eat Local Act makes an important change in federal law to allow schools the purchasing flexibility to support local farmers and increase access to local, healthy foods in our schools—promoting new business for Maine farmers while providing our children with nutritious lunches made from the ingredients grown in their backyards.”
“Ohio farmers grow some of the best produce in the country,” said Senator Sherrod Brown. “This legislation will make it easier for locally grown foods to be served in school lunchrooms while strengthening our farms and rural communities.”
“Local food is fresh, healthy, and supports communities. Current law, however, makes it difficult for schools to purchase ‘locally grown,’ ‘locally raised,’ or ‘locally caught’ food to serve to their students,” said Senator Susan Collins. “Our commonsense legislation would provide greater flexibility for schools; increase students’ access to fresh local food; and create new markets for our agricultural families, farmers, and fishermen.”
"An exciting trend we are seeing across America is the growth of the farm-to-table movement––connecting local farmers to the local community. 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,” said Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“I am proud to join Congresswoman Pingree in introducing the Kids Eat Local Act.” said Congresswoman Alma Adams. “Good food is essential to student success, and the Kids Eat Local Act invests in our communities by making it easier for schools to source food from local farms. This ensures that students have fresh, nutritious food and that local food systems are better supported by our school meal programs. The purchasing power of school districts has the potential to generate over $1 billion in local economic activity, lifting up the small and mid-sized farms across the U.S. that have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This transformative, bipartisan legislation will help our students and our local farms grow.”
“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 Congressman Josh 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 for school systems to ask for “local” as a product specification in procurement requests. Schools can use a geographic preference option, but it is underutilized due to unnecessary red tape for school food service providers.
The Kids Eat Local Act will support local and regional food systems by providing commonsense regulatory flexibility around the use of geographic preference for the procurement of school foods. The legislation 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; instead, it helps to create new markets for farmers and creates more healthy options for schoolchildren.
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, Union of Concerned Scientists and Full Plates, Full Potential.