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Bill Aims To Expand Local Food in School Lunch

a poster about healthy food at a school cafeteria

Currently, schools can pick a geographic preference for where food purchases come from, but can't stipulate “local” sources. ( Lance Cheung/USDA/flickr)

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced companion bills that would allow schools more flexibility so they can purchase local products for cafeteria meals.

Representative Chellie Pingree and Senator Susan Collins, both from Maine, are sponsoring the legislation.

Supporters say the proposal would not add extra costs for programs.

The Kids Eat Local Act also aims to remove bureaucratic hurdles that hamper local purchases.

The measures would allow schools to target “locally grown,” “locally raised” or “locally caught” food in their procurement language.

Several nutrition advocacy groups are backing the measure, including the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the National Farm to School Network.

The bills do not require local purchases or define what “local” means, so individual school districts can determine that for themselves.

Congress is slated to discuss and possibly reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act this year.

It is meant to come up for re-authorization every five years, but could not reach agreement when it came up for consideration in 2016.

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