WASHINGTON, March 13, 2023 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt and Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean, along with U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) and U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop Jr. (GA-02), today announced the signing of a cooperative agreement between USDA and Georgia for more than $7.1 million to increase the state’s purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.
Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), the Georgia Department of Education GaDOE will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.
“This cooperative agreement supporting Georgia schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said Under Secretary Moffitt. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”
“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school, a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grow, and thrive.”
With the LFS funds, GaDOE will help cultivate relationships and business opportunities between Georgia’s famers, distributors, and School Food Authorities (SFAs) by purchasing healthy fresh and nutritious foods from local underserved farmers and producers and have them distributed to communities in the state. This program will help contribute to students’ achievements and community development by providing a more equitable local food system.
"We want to send our kids to school knowing they’re going to be well fed with good, fresh food. We also want Georgia farmers to have the opportunity to sell fresh, locally grown Georgia produce to our schools. This new program is a win-win for Georgia students and farmers," said Sen. Ossoff.
“I am delighted with today’s announcement and look forward to the implementation of this pilot program, particularly in Middle and Southwest Georgia which is home to our state’s top agricultural counties. Our farmers are ready and willing to provide our schools with the fresh food necessary for a healthy diet and it is important that the bounty of our local producers also benefits our local communities. As a top leader on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, I have made local food purchasing a priority – particularly for the National School Lunch Program,” said Congressman Bishop Jr. “We know that school meals are a vital source of food and nutrition for elementary and secondary students, with nearly sixty percent of all students participating in school lunch programs nationwide. The Local Food for Schools agreement announced today will celebrate neighbors helping neighbors, in a win-win for our local economy and community."
State School Superintendent Richard Woods said, “Georgia has the fifth-largest school nutrition program in the nation. Our school nutrition professionals are committed to fueling Georgia’s future by serving quality school meals that support student achievement and Georgia’s communities. These funds will continue to support excellence in Georgia’s school meals, allowing our school nutrition programs to provide more Georgia foods for Georgia’s students.”
LFS cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area.
Additionally, the program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products. Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is authorized by the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program.
Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is one of many ways USDA is supporting school meal programs and transforming our food system in the long term. For more information on USDA’s efforts to transform our food system, visit Build Back Better page.
School meals are an important part of ensuring kids are well-nourished and set up to thrive. USDA is committed to providing schools the support they need to serve tasty and nutritious meals that promote child health. For more information on ways USDA is supporting schools, see USDA Support for School Meals.
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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