Nebraska lawmakers on Monday advanced a bill to create a statewide Farm to School network that would put locally grown vegetables, dairy and meat on school lunch trays.
Legislative Bill 396, introduced by State Sen. Tom Brandt of Plymouth, would help connect school administrators and cafeteria managers with local farmers, gardeners and livestock producers to supply school lunches.
Brandt said the Farm to School program would create a “huge economic opportunity” for Nebraska farmers. About 90% of the vegetables used in school lunches are imported from other states.
“I want to keep our food dollars in Nebraska, not send them to California,” he said.
In addition to providing a boost to local economies, allowing schools to source food from neighboring farmers could also create educational opportunities for students, Brandt said.
Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, who co-sponsored the bill, said K-12 students in rural areas of the state grow up learning about food systems in ways students from urban centers often miss out on.
She said that LB 396, in addition to providing healthy food to students, would help students in Omaha and Lincoln connect the dots on how their food is produced.
Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard called the bill “a great opportunity for rural Nebraska,” allowing students engaged in 4-H and the National FFA Organization to raise the food they are going to consume at their schools.
Both LB 396 and an accompanying bill appropriating money to hire a statewide coordinator for the Farm to School program at the Nebraska Department of Education received first-round approval on a 43-0 vote.
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