Last month, Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) introduced Assembly Bill 958, to provide local, organic food to children in schools. Co-sponsored by CAFF & The Farmers Guild, together with the Natural Resources Defense Council, this bill recognizes that school meals with organic foods offer benefits for health, the environment, and California’s economy by increasing access to organic food for low-income children, decreasing pesticide exposure, increasing climate resilience, and supporting the organic market for California farmers.
California farmers grow food for the whole nation, and they grow more organic produce than any other state. Despite this, many low-income California communities do not have an adequate food supply of their own, and many children lack access to fresh, healthy food.
“Farm to School Programs are a great way to provide more local, fresh, organic produce to our children’s school meals,” said Aguiar-Curry. “In Winters where I live, our small, rural community surrounded by farms has been running a Farm to School Program for years. Over time, the community farms and school cafeterias have partnered to make local, fresh food available to our kids and their families, so they learn the importance of where their food comes from and why eating local is good for their health. And, we need to support our local farmers who produce sustainable, healthy foods.”
School meals provide a primary source of food and nutrition for millions of California public school students, and are a major support for low-income families struggling to make ends meet. While cost and availability issues prevent many of California’s communities from accessing organic food, meals provided in the school setting are a practical way to increase children’s nutrition.
According to Allison Johnson, Sustainable Food Policy Advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Bringing more organic food to California’s schools is great for the health of our children, a win for climate, and a boost for innovative farming communities growing food without toxic pesticides.”
AB 958 will create the “California Organic-to-School Pilot Program” within the Office of Farm to Fork. This pilot program will allow school districts to apply for up to fifteen cents of additional funding on every school meal to purchase certified organic, California-grown foods. Schools that serve a high percentage of children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals and are located in close proximity to agricultural production will be prioritized for the first grants.
By reporting information on the outcomes of the program back to the state, the goal of the California Organic-to-School Pilot Program is to demonstrate that providing kids with healthy local food is money well spent. The benefits of bringing healthy, locally-grown, and organic foods to our schools stretch beyond internal health benefits. Through this program, school children will become more connected to both what they eat and where their food comes from.
Aguiar-Curry represents the 4th Assembly District, which includes all of Lake and Napa Counties, parts of Colusa, Solano and Sonoma Counties, and all of Yolo County except West Sacramento.