ST. PAUL – Today, advocates will launch their campaign to pass a statewide Farm to School bill in Minnesota. The Farm to School Coalition includes, farmers’ organizations, school nutrition advocates public health advocates, and businesses, who are all hoping to build on successful efforts around the state that are good for farmers, good for kids, and good for the local economy.
HF2049/SF1657 were introduced with widespread bipartisan support and would incentivize schools to serve healthy local food to children and provide technical assistance to schools, farmers, and businesses that want to start or improve a farm to school program. The Senate bill, chief-authored by Sen. Mike Goggin of Red Wing, is expected to be heard in the Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee, today at 3:00 pm, while the House bill will be heard on Wednesday in the House Agriculture Policy Committee.
“Access to local markets is a critical component to farmers maintaining their livelihoods. Increasing the technical assistance available through a statewide Farm to School bill will help their businesses succeed,” says Rep. Deb Kiel of Crookston, the bill’s chief author in the House.
Minnesota is one of only 12 states without a statewide policy in place. Even though roughly 35 percent of school districts in MN have Farm to School programs, the lack of coordination and support means our state is missing out on key health, education, and economic development opportunities. For farmers, direct access to institutional markets, like schools, means predictable, stable income that helps their bottom line and diversify their income.
Most children spend much of their day in school or daycare, where they consume most of their daily calories. Farm to school programs connect children with locally-grown food and hands-on activities that support their growth, learning, and development.
According to Erin McKee, co-chair of the Farm to School Coalition, “Before children reach the age of 5, nearly 90 percent of brain development is complete and lifelong eating patterns are forming. Providing children with more opportunities to eat locally grown foods and participate in classroom activities related to food and agriculture increases their understanding of the food system, and promotes lifelong healthful eating habits.”