Maine's U.S. Rep. Pringree proposes legislation for schools to buy local food

By Ramona du Houx - July 22nd, 2010 · 

On July 22, 2010 Congresswoman Chellie Pingree spoke on the House floor about legislation she introduced this week to help schools provide healthier meals for their students while supporting local farmers.

“On average, an apple travels 1,500 miles from farm to school. This bill gives schools the freedom to buy apples from their neighbors and keep every dollar spent in the community instead of traveling across the country and back,” said Pingree. “This legislation will not only bring healthier food to our schools but also pump money into local economies.”

Currently, about 80 percent of the federal funds schools receive for free-and-reduced-lunch programs are through unrestricted reimbursements. But about 20 percent of federal funding is given to schools to purchase commodity food from the USDA.

Pingree’s legislation would give schools the option of redirecting 10 percent of its commodities funding to purchase local foods, resulting in no extra costs for taxpayers.

“In America, we have slowly moved further and further away from feeding our kids healthy meals at school and at the same time have watched thousands of family-run farm literally disappear,” said Pingree. “Many Maine schools have gone out of their way to buy food from local farms but dwindling budgets and competing priorities have resulted in less money for local food options in cafeterias. My bill frees up money to purchase locally produced food by giving them the option to spend 10 percent of what they would receive for government commodities on food from local farms.”

In June, Pingree held a Children’s Nutrition Forum at Bonny Eagle Middle School in Buxton to hear from local school nutrition directors on how the federal government could better support their efforts to produce healthier meals for students.