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Growing policy support for farm to school

Contributed by Erin McKee, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Students from St. Paul Public Schools enjoy a Farm to School recipe taste test!
Students from St. Paul Public Schools enjoy a Farm to School recipe taste test!

With the start of the 2018 Minnesota legislative session three weeks ago, farm to school and early care advocates are thinking once again of how state policy could support these initiatives across our state. Right now, Minnesota is in the minority of states that do not have official policy explicitly supporting farm to school and early-care efforts. See the State Farm to School Legislative Survey 2002-2017 for details.

While farm to school practices in our state have increased over the past decade, the lack of state policy is preventing these efforts from reaching their full potential to support Minnesota farmers and schools in providing more fresh, healthy Minnesota-grown food to all students. Farm to school policy will provide the statewide consistency, stability and support to ensure the future success of these efforts.

The sustainability of farm to school and early care practices depends on the success of all parties involved, particularly farmers, schools, and early care nutrition services. With this in mind, the stakeholder group working to move this policy effort forward has identified three policy priorities:
  1. Maintain the successful farm to school grant in the Minnesota Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation Program.
  2. Reimburse sponsors of USDA child nutrition programs (school districts and early care environments) on average 5 cents per meal for the purchase of Minnesota-grown unprocessed or minimally processed food.
  3. Fund two outreach educators and one technical specialist in Extension to provide research-based education and technical assistance to Minnesota’s farmers interested in selling their products to Minnesota schools. Focus this effort on beginning, specialty crop, and small- to mid-sized producers.
If you are interested in getting involved, please sign up here! Although this is a bonding year, there is plenty of work to be done to get new funding in the next biennium. Join us in the effort to support farm to school and early care programs that are good for farmers, good for kids, and good for our communities.
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