Federal Program Increases Purchase of Locally Grown Produce
Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman today announced that Connecticut is one of eight states selected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to participate in the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables. The program is provided for under the federal Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill. Under the program, Connecticut will be able to increase its purchases of locally grown fruits and vegetables for its state-assisted school meal program.
“Connecticut’s participation in this federal pilot is great news for our farmers, our economy and our children,” said Governor Malloy. “Our state is home to thousands of farming operations responsible for billions in economic activity. By increasing the amount locally-sourced healthy food options for our students, we help lay a foundation for lifelong successful habits.”
“This program helps encourage healthier habits in our young people—it creates a stronger future for families and for Connecticut,” said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. “Thanks to investments in agriculture and a rich farming heritage, we are fortunate in Connecticut to have access to excellent locally-grown fruits and vegetables. This access, and the expansion of our school meals programs, promotes nutrition and better learning for students across the state.”
Nationally, USDA Foods – provided by the USDA to schools – make up about 20 percent of the foods served in schools. States use their USDA Foods allocation to select items from a list of 180 products including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, rice, low fat cheese, beans, pasta, flour and other whole grain products. This pilot program will allow the selected states to use some of their USDA Foods allocation to purchase unprocessed fruits and vegetables directly, instead of going through the USDA Foods program.
In Connecticut the program is run by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Federal Foods program. DAS staff have worked with local school districts and local food producers for many years to provide quality food items as a part of school meals.
Hearing the news of this development, DAS Commissioner Donald DeFronzo commented: “We are proud to be one of only eight states entrusted with this new flexibility to increase our purchase of high quality, locally grown or produced food items. This will provide a boost to our agricultural and food products sector, as well as assuring fresh and healthy meals for our school children to enjoy”.
“Increasing the availability and amount of fresh Connecticut Grown fruits and vegetables in our schools will have a positive ripple effect on many levels,” Department of Agriculture Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky said. “This is a great opportunity to improve the nutritional health of our students while continuing to grow Connecticut’s farms and agricultural economy.”
These states were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to farm to school efforts, including prior efforts to increase and promote farm to school programs in the state, the quantity and variety of growers of local fruits and vegetables in the state on a per capita basis, and the degree to which the state contains a sufficient quantity of local educational agencies of various population sizes and geographic locations.
This pilot is designed to support the schools’ pre-existing relationships with vendors, growers, produce wholesalers, and distributors, and increase the use of locally-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables in school meal programs. While the pilot does not require sourcing locally grown foods, the project will enable schools to increase their use of locally-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables from AMS authorized vendors.