BOZEMAN, Mont., March 6, 2010 â€“ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Montana to highlight USDAâ€™s work to strengthen the American agriculture economy and revitalize rural communities through farm-to-school programs. Secretary Vilsack was joined by Senator Jon Tester at the Longfellow Elementary School in Bozeman for a roundtable discussion with local leaders on how Montana is using farm-to-school Programs to connect schools with local farms to improve the nutrition of school meals, provide agriculture and health education, and support local farmers.
“Strengthening the link between local farmers and school cafeterias is critical to addressing the nutrition issues facing our children,” said Secretary Vilsack. “Supporting farm-to-school programs will increase the amount of produce available to cafeterias and help to support local farmers by establishing regular, institutional buyers. These programs are a win for farmers and ranchers and a win for our children.”
With more than 100,000 public and non-profit private schools across the U.S., from elementary through high school, the farm-to-school movement offers new income opportunities for Americaâ€™s farmers and ranchers in addition to supporting off-farm jobs in rural America while giving children the opportunity to eat healthy, local fruits and vegetables and to learn to be healthy eaters. USDA is working to make sure that farm-to-school programs are a key part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.
USDA has begun to deploy farm-to-school teams across the country to work with local and state authorities, school districts and community partners to gather and disseminate information on infrastructure and best practices for procuring local produce and implementing farm to school activities. Working with education leaders and State and local partners, USDA is promoting farm to school programs and school garden programs to help strengthen the link between consumers and farmers.
The Obama Administration has proposed a historic investment of an additional $10 billion over ten years starting in 2011 that will allow for the improvement of the quality of the School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, increase the number of kids participating, and ensure schools have the resources they need to make program changes, including training for school food service workers, upgraded kitchen equipment, and additional funding for meal reimbursements for schools that are enhancing nutrition and quality. Additionally, this investment will allow additional fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products to be served in our school cafeterias and an additional one million students to be served the healthy diets in school.
The USDA Farm to School Team has scheduled its first webinar entitled for Wednesday, March 10th at 3:00 pm ET. More information about USDAâ€™s efforts to improve child nutrition can be found at www.usda.gov.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).