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USDA urges school to purchase food from local farmers

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Earlier this year, federal officials called for an overhaul of school lunch programs in an effort to combat childhood obesity in America. This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new rule designed to connect schools with nearby farmers and get locally sourced produce and products into cafeterias. According to a release:

[The rule] will let schools and other providers give preference to unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products as they purchase food for the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, Child and Adult Care, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable, and Summer Food Service programs.

...

USDA currently is sending teams out to select school districts to work on farm to school issues. Some of these programs also incorporate nutrition-based studies, as well as food-learning opportunities such as farm visits, gardening, cooking, and composting activities.

But Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse and founder of the Edible Schoolyard program, tells NPR that putting locally grown foods on lunch trays doesn't do any good if students don't eat it:

We should certainly try to improve diets by make school lunches more nutritious and by getting the vending machines out of the hallways ... But we can't be sure that kids are even eating - let alone understanding - what nourishment is all about. Kids are wary of unfamiliar foods, besides they can always buy packaged junk before and after school.

Waters advocates for expanding the curriculum to include "edible education," which reminds me of researchers' recommendation to revive home economics class. Or, perhaps the solution is to prominently display and give nutritious foods eye-catching labels such as "X-ray vision carrots," as this study suggested.

Previously: CDC calls for improving kids' access to healthy food, Can rebranding make kids choose veggies over junk food?, Study shows federal school lunch program doesn’t make the grade and School nutrition standards come into the 21st century
Photo by DC Central Kitchen

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