Bringing Jersey Fresh Food to Schools

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By Susan Heckler

Every few years, new dining trends evolve; the latest being farm-to-table restaurants. We all understand fresh is best, especially if you know the source. Why not take this attitude one step further into our homes and our schools?

Two legislative bills have just been passed and await our Governor’s signature. Assembly bill 2641 supports the state’s “Farm to School” and “Farm to Gardens” programs, allowing taxpayers to make a contribution on their income tax forms, and creates a fund in the Department of the Treasury to hold these funds. Annually, the Legislature will appropriate the monies in the fund to the Department of Agriculture to support the two farm-friendly programs. Additionally we have bill A-2642 which allows the Secretary of Agriculture to solicit and accept private and public money to support the state’s “Farm to School” program.

The school lunch programs rely on canned and frozen produce, which do not have the nutritional benefits of freshly grown and picked. Serving up Jersey fresh produce, non-processed food in a healthy, balanced diet whenever possible will bolster our farm community.

Two related bills are also pending, a third bill, A-2643, which establishes the “Best in New Jersey ‘Farm to School’ Awards Program” to recognize the outstanding “Farm to School” utilization by a school or school district and A-156, which supports the “Farm to School” program by requiring the Department of Agriculture to post important information about the program on its web site.

According to Assemblyman Ron Dancer, one of the sponsors of the bills, “The “Farm to School” program is a successful National model that will now connect our local farmers with hometown schools with healthy Jersey Fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables.”

Happy, healthy kids and a happy, healthy farming community sound like a good pairing.