UPDATE – the bill just passed through the Louisiana House Education Committee too – so now onto the full Senate and House soon! Stay tuned!
Great news! RFC and friends have been pushing Farm to School programs nationally and locally – and we just had another BIG WIN!!
Yesterday, the Louisiana Senate Education Committee moved a Farm to School bill forward that could bring more fresh local food to schools, by allowing them to directly connect with farmers.
LA Senate Bill 184 would increase the “small purchase threshold”, which is the maximum amount of money schools can spend on a contract to buy food items, without having to engage in a lengthy and complicated formal public bidding process with potential food providers. In Louisiana, the threshold is just $25,000, so most school food purchases require formal bidding, and this often prevents smaller-scale farmers, who cannot spend time on detailed paperwork, from selling their food to schools.
Both Marianne Cufone, our Executive Director and Katie Mularz, our friend and colleague, who is the Executive Director of the Louisiana Farm to School Alliance testified before the Committee in favor of the bill with Sen. Francis Thompson, Chair of the Agricultural Committee, who introduced the bill.
Over sixty-eight percent of Louisiana public school students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. If more fresh food is served in Louisiana schools, it can reach a majority of public school children.
The bill is also a great way to support Louisiana farmers, who are currently missing out on over 40 million dollars a year in sales due to wasted fruits and vegetables that never make it to market. Making new markets – schools – for Louisiana farmers, can help reduce waste of good food, and put it to very good use – feeding our children.
When SB 184 becomes law, Louisiana will join 44 other states and the District of Columbia in championing the Farm to School movement.
This is the first in a series of upcoming Farm to School initiatives. Watch for more news on Farm to School bills moving forward in Louisiana and at the national level!
Yesterday, the Louisiana House Agriculture Committee moved a Farm to School bill forward that could bring more fresh local food to schools, by allowing them to directly connect with farmers, and sets up a database of farmers and schools interested in participating in such a program. Emily Posner, RFC’s Policy and Legislative Counsel, testified in support of the bill.
House Bill (HB) 730 would increase the “small purchase threshold,” which is the maximum amount of money schools can spend on a contract to buy food items, without having to engage in a lengthy and complicated formal public bidding process with potential food providers. In Louisiana, the threshold is low – up to $30,000 – so most school food purchases require formal bidding. This often prevents smaller-scale farmers, who can not spend significant time doing intricate paperwork, from selling to schools. Additionally, the bill creates a database so that farms and schools able and willing to participate in such programs can identify one another and easily make contact.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Ebony Woodruff, is supported by many and was crafted with assistance from Loyola University of New Orleans, School of Law students, Pepper Bowen and Sarah Thompson, the Louisiana Farm to School Alliance and the Recirculating Farms Coalition.
HB 730 comes on the heels of Senate Bill (SB) 184, which has a similar focus, introduced by Sen. Francis Thompson. SB 184 passed through the Senate Education Committee unanimously two weeks ago. Both bills will now move through the full House and Senate respectively.
Read the full press release here.
To learn more check out our fact sheet here.
Some colleges are now encouraging their students to take “alternative” spring breaks – where the main focus is community service and learning through experiences. This past week, Recirculating Farms Coalition hosted two groups of Spring Breakers – one from Kentucky and another from University of Southern Cali Law – at our Growing Local NOLA
community garden in New Orleans.
Students got out in the garden and cared for chickens, built, filled and waterproofed raised garden beds, reorganized our greenhouses, cleaned and planted our aquaponic system and much more!
Farm Manager Ica Crawford even cooked some local dishes for all the students to sample – using fresh eggs, greens and herbs right from the garden.
Big thanks to our friends Capstone Community Gardens and David Young for connecting us with the schools sponsoring these programs, the schools themselves for encouraging community service during spring break and of course all the students who worked so hard this past week – our garden looks amazing!!
Fantastic news this week – a bipartisan Farm to School program bill was introduced both in the House of Representatives AND the Senate. We are VERY excited! RFC and partners nationwide have been urging legislators to connect farmers with schools so more fresh food can be part of school meals. Additionally, much farm to school programing includes gardens on site at schools. This can foster children learning more about nutrition, health and various other topics associated with growing.
Let’s tell Congress we want farm to school programs in all our schools! Send a message to your legislators here.
February 2nd was an exciting day for us here at the Recirculating Farms Coalition. We learned that we’d been awarded a New and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to supporting training and mentoring for urban farmers in innovative growing methods like recirculating hydroponics, aquaculture and aquaponics, combined with traditional soil-based farming. AND the announcement came with an in-person visit from USDA’s Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and various USDA staff from Louisiana and Washington, DC! Read USDA’s press release here.
Deputy Secretary Harden, accompanied by Louisiana and Washington, DC staff, toured RFC’s community garden, spoke with food and farm project leaders and enjoyed assorted treats prepared with ingredients from local farms.
Shout out to the various local farms and food businesses that provided food for our menu:
7th Ward Boys and Girls Garden – 7th Ward, New Orleans; Capstone Community Gardens – 9th Ward, New Orleans; Grow Dat Youth Farm – City Park, New Orleans; Growing Local NOLA – Central City, New Orleans; Happy Hen Farm – St. Rose, LA; Inglewood Farm – Alexandria, LA; Landry-Poche Strawberry Farm – Ponchatoula, LA; Locally Preserved – New Orleans; Schwars Citrus – Braithwaite, LA; and VEGGI Farmers Cooperative – New Orleans East!
The Deputy Secretary spoke to a diverse crowd of farmers, educators, community members and press on this initiative to train, mentor, and enhance the success of future farmers and ranchers. See video here.
“As new farmers and ranchers get started, they are really looking to their community for support. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program empowers these farmers and ranchers to bring innovative ideas to the table when it comes to addressing food security, creating economic enterprises, and building communities,” said Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. ”
Our Executive Director Marianne Cufone followed with thanks and appreciation for the grant, the visit and for everyone who works so hard in the food farming community:
“I want to first thank Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and the rest of the USDA folks for coming here, to New Orleans, to make these announcements. Highlighting our community and supporting training and mentorship in farming here is so important for us all to have access to healthy fresh affordable food, and for our farmers to be both ecologically and economically sustainable. We are very excited about being part of the New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
I also very much thank all of you for joining with us here. You are each a critical piece of the food and farming community and the time, energy and heart you put into this work has empowered us all to create green spaces, more good local food and perhaps most importantly, a network of friends, colleagues and partners, who work together to grow literally and collaboratively in this City and beyond.
There are so many innovative, amazing projects and programs in food and farming that you all make happen – I look forward to us all sharing them this morning with each other, Deputy Secretary Harden and the rest of the USDA staff.
Thank you so much for all that you do!”
We’ll be posting more pix from the event on our Facebook page and you can read our press release about the event here.