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Can Farm-to-School Programs Make the Grade?

School Rules: Farmers Face the Supply Side Issues

When the Farm Becomes a Classroom

Increase Access to Healthy and Local Foods
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Policy Recommendations:
Subsidy Transformation Conservation and Land Protection Healthy and Local Foods Renewable Energy Nutrition

Healthy Food and Better Diets

Not so long ago, Americans enjoyed meals prepared primarily from local ingredients. They knew how to preserve the family farm or garden harvest, and they regularly sat down to eat meals at home. Now we rarely know the farmer responsible for the food we buy in the supermarket. We’ve lost the connection to our food sources, an important part of our health and well-being.

School LunchThe food that Americans eat directly affects their health. U.S. agricultural policy, in turn, influences what Americans eat.

The farm bill provides a unique opportunity to link the sound nutritional guidelines established by the health community—which call for greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains—to changes in agricultural policy.

The federal government spends billions of dollars to subsidize grains and other crops while providing almost no support for fruits and vegetables. In light of skyrocketing national healthcare costs related to diet-related diseases such as obesity and diabetes, we need to promote healthier diets by supporting farmers' markets, expanding access to specialty crops and locally grown food, and facilitating institutional purchases of local and regional agricultural products.

Healthy Diets Policy Recommendations:

  • Increase funding for the Fruit and Vegetable Program (Snack program) to provide school kids with healthy foods
  • Increase the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program to give low income seniors healthy foods from farmers markets
  • Provide more funding to improve the nutritional content of the School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, which provide meals to millions of children each day

» AFT's Recommendations to Improve Access to Healthy, Local Foods PDF

Local Foods and Value Added Agriculture

Fresh Local FoodsIs your food racking up more frequent flyer miles than you? Your food may travel by trains, planes and automobiles to reach your plate after a journey that averages 1,500 to 2,500 miles. Despite most Americans living within 100 miles or less of an abundant source of local agriculture, our food miles continue to increase every year.

Farmers often have little access to local markets that stems from a range of issues including a lack of local production facilities, reduced marketing capacity and even federal laws prohibiting institutions from buying local. Local farmers not only have the freshest food in season, privately owned agricultural land provides fiscal stability for communities: Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies show that nationwide, farm, forest and open lands more than pay for the municipal services they require, while taxes on residential uses, on average, fail to cover costs.

Local Foods Policy Recommendations:

  • Expand the Farmers Market Promotion Program which provides grant funding to support the creation of farmers’ markets in new areas
  • Modify policy language to allow for local preference in USDA food program purchasing
  • Increase funding for the Farm to Cafeteria Program, which offesr grant money to cover the initial costs of incorporating locally-grown foods into school lunches, installing school gardens, and expanding school nutrition education
  • Increase funding for the Community Food Projects Program to offer grants to support projects that increase the availability of nutritious and fresh foods in low-income communities

Farm and Ranch Profitability Grants

Farm and ranch profitability grants would help farmers like Mary James of Pender County, North Carolina, who wants to build a small on-farm processing operation for her pasture-raised hogs. James says that small farmers like her need more assistance in "marketing goods and starting up new businesses."

To support entrepreneurship among farmers and ranchers and to enhance rural prosperity, AFT recommends a new $1 billion farm and ranch profitability grants program. The new program will benefit both agriculture and consumers—rural and urban. The farm and ranch profitability grants program could be used for important programs that support farmers' markets, agriculture innovation centers, community food projects, farm-to-cafeteria programs, rural business enterprise grants, seniors and WIC farmers' market nutrition programs, value-added producer grants, specialty crop block grants and other programs that address local and regional producer needs—but currently receive less than $100 million per year.

» AFT's Farm and Ranch Profitability Grants Program Recommendation PDF

» AFT's Recommendations to Revitalize Agricultural Communities PDF

Assist Beginning Farmers and Provide Opportunities for Minority Farmers

field USDA photoOur nation is at a crucial stage in helping a new generation take over the land, which requires new policies to improve access to land, credit and tools to manage risks. With the rising price of land and increasing capital investment required, beginning farmers face growing challenges.

As we create farm policy that is more equitable and provides benefits to a wider range of farmers, special attention must be taken to craft agricultural programs that address the needs of minority producers who have not participated fully in past efforts.

» AFT's Recommendations to Provide Opportunities for Beginning and Minority Farmers PDF

American Farmland Trust