Legislation Would Enhance Program to Provide Schools with Farm-Fresh Food, Create Online Marketplace for Local Farmers
TRENTON – A package of bills that would increase access and awareness of the New Jersey Farm to School program was approved today by the Senate Economic Growth Committee. The Farm to School Program provides agriculture products to schools and schools districts to serve healthy meals that improve student nutrition, provide health and nutrition education opportunities and support local farmers.
“The common saying ‘don’t knock it till you’ve tried it’ is uttered by parents and adults daily, particularly when trying to get young kids to try new foods, yet many New Jersey school children don’t have daily access to fruits and vegetables at home,” said Senator Peter J. Barnes, III, D-Middlesex, sponsor of three of the bills in the package. “New Jersey’s farm to school program provides exceptional opportunities for healthy and nutritional lunches made from fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a wide variety of farm-fresh food, providing kids with access to healthier lunch options, while teaching them about farming, sustainability and good health habits.”
“Schools represent an opportunity to provide an education beyond the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – by demonstrating how to make good decisions throughout life,” said Senator Jim Beach, D-Camden and Burlington, a sponsor of S-1964 in the bill package. “By providing New Jersey students with healthy and nutritional foods at an early age the New Jersey Farm to School Program can have a real impact on healthy eating, reducing obesity and health issues later in life. It will further support New Jersey’s agriculture economy by providing farmers with the ability to sell directly to schools through an online clearinghouse, creating a new market to sell their produce and food.”
The following bills are included in the package:
- S-1902, sponsored by Senator Barnes, would require the New Jersey Farm to School program to promote successful partnerships with schools and school districts and the farmers who provide them with fresh foods. The bill would also require the Department of Agriculture to promote the New Jersey Farm to School program on their website.
- S-1907, sponsored by Senator Barnes, would require the Department of Agriculture to celebrate schools and school districts that successfully incorporate farm-to-school principles into their school meals and snacks through an annual “Best Farm to School Awards Program.” Consideration for the awards will include innovative use of farm produce and products in schools; outstanding and consistent high levels of nutritional balance; and an increase in students’ awareness of the contribution of farmers and farms to the quality of a school’s meals and snacks.
- S-1908, sponsored by Senator Barnes, would allow the Department of Agriculture to accept donations towards the Farm to School program.
- S-1964, sponsored by SenatorBeach, would direct the Department of Agriculture to create a website similar to an online help-wanted ad that would allow farmers to connect to schools, school districts and food banks to sell produce or dairy products as part of the Farm to School program.
All bills were approved unanimously by the Committee. S-1964 now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further review. S-1902, S-1907 and S-1908 will head to the full Senate for consideration.