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California’s New Farm to School Program Encourages Organic

by Laetitia Benador |

The California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) new Farm to School Grant Program, released in January 2021, brings welcome news to organic fields and public school lunchrooms alike. With a declared purpose of encouraging schools to buy from small and medium-sized farms, farms using climate-smart practices, and from Latinx, Black, Indigenous, and other farmers of color, this program does more than just feed children: it seeks to ensure their futures are resilient and equitable.

The program recognizes that organic, transitioning to organic, and certified 100 percent grassfed production are “demonstrated and documented” climate-smart practices. Organic farmers will benefit from new regional market opportunities. Public schools purchase huge amounts of food; directing even a fraction of these food purchases toward organic can support fairer prices and stable markets for California’s organic farmers.

More organic food in school meals democratizes access to healthy food. A recent study found that nearly 30 percent of schools in California were serving at least some organic food. Yet the highest-income districts were more than twice as likely as the lowest-income districts to serve organic food. The Farm to School Program will provide much-needed funding for schools to purchase organic and other climate-friendly food for California’s students.

To complement the Farm to School program, Senator Nancy Skinner recently introduced SB 364, the School Meals for All bill, which could make California the first state to provide free breakfast and lunch to all kids in public school. The bill focuses on California-grown food and prioritizes low-income children. To learn more, read the full text of the bill.