Harder, Pingree, Fortenberry Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Get Local Produce to Local Schools

June 12, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Representatives Josh Harder (CA-10) Chellie Pingree (ME-1) and Jeff Fortenberry (NE-1) today introduced the Kids Eat Local Act, a bipartisan bill which would cut red tape and allow local schools to buy local foods. Federal regulations make it difficult for schools to give preference to local farmers when buying food for school lunches.

“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 Rep. 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 – this is a win-win.”  

“Our children deserve healthy, nutritious lunches that are made with ingredients from their backyards—not highly processed foods,” said Rep. Pingree. “In the midst of an increase in diabetes and obesity in this country, it is critical to provide kids with healthy choices in the lunchroom. This bill is a commonsense solution that not only keeps our schoolchildren healthy, but also promotes new business for local farms and helps families to learn about the healthy foods grown in their communities.”

“One of the important, exciting trends we are seeing across our country is the growth of the farm-to-table movement, connecting rural to urban, farmers directly to consumers,” said Rep. Fortenberry, Ranking Member, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration. “I support this effort to incentivize schools to buy more of their food from local sources.”

"Whether it's one bunch of carrots from the farmers market or palettes of produce for an institutional purchase—Americans love to celebrate local food and support their region's family farmers,” said Wes King, Senior Policy Specialist at NSAC. “The Kids Eat Local Act will make a simple but powerful change in our federal school food procurement laws that will allow schools the purchasing flexibility to source more of their food locally. This legislation will not only increase access to fresh, healthy foods in our public schools, it will also provide farmers with quality opportunities in new markets – something especially needed as producers across the nation struggle with extreme weather events and a slumping farm economy.”

Current law does not allow school systems to ask for “local” produce when buying foods for school lunches. Schools can use a geographic preference option, but it is underutilized because of unnecessary red tape.

The Kids Eat Local Act 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.

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, and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.