USDA Launches Fresh Produce Program for Florida, Michigan Schools
WASHINGTON, July 12, 2011 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will conduct a pilot for acquiring fresh fruits and vegetables to build on farm-to-school programs in Florida and Michigan. The pilot will use commercial distribution models already in place and allow schools to obtain locally grown produce.
"This is a win-win for everyone as this pilot program will allow us to get fresh fruits and vegetables to schools," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "We are constantly searching for new opportunities to expand markets for producers while providing fresh, healthy food to schools."
AMS will review growers' eligibility to participate in the program to ensure they meet Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices. A Request for Proposal for various domestic fresh fruits and vegetables delivered in quantities that are usable by recipients will be put forth by AMS.
Florida and Michigan will use their entitlement funds to purchase the commodities from a list of various foods purchased by USDA and offered through the school lunch program. Entitlements are grants-in-aid to schools that help defray the cost of school lunch; local schools earn a fixed federal reimbursement for each school lunch served consistent with USDA nutritional guidelines.
USDA typically purchases 15 to 20 percent of the foods that are used in the National School Lunch Program. Purchases include poultry, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and oils. USDA food purchases serve the dual purpose of supporting agricultural markets and providing nutritious foods to school children and needy Americans.
FNS provides children and low-income people access to food, a healthful diet, and nutrition education. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 authorizes USDA's child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service Program, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The Act allows USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act is the legislative centerpiece of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation.
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