The Bulletin Board

Proposed legislation would increase the amount of local food in schools

By: - September 22, 2021 4:36 pm
State House dome

The legislation will head next to the full Legislature once it reconvenes in January. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A bill that will be introduced during the next legislative session aims to increase the amount of New Hampshire-grown food that’s served in public schools. The proposal sets a statewide target that 10 percent of food served in schools will be grown in the state.

Rep. Alexis Simpson, an Exeter Democrat, filed a request for legislation “establishing a New Hampshire farm-to-school reimbursement program.”

Simpson said the bill is a bipartisan effort, with Republican co-sponsors signing on in support of the proposal.

Under the proposal, schools that purchase local food would be eligible for reimbursement from federal nutrition funding. If a product isn’t available in New Hampshire, the school could look to growers in neighboring states like Vermont or Maine, for example, but in that case, the reimbursement would be lower, Simpson said. Seventy-five percent of schools are already spending some money on local food, according to Simpson.

“We want to increase the number of schools that can spend money on local food, as well as the total amount of money spent in the New Hampshire agricultural economy,” she said.

In addition to federal funding, the program would also require some state investment in a software program the Department of Education would use to administer the program.

In 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which began federal investment into farm-to-school programs throughout the country. Now, the state of New Hampshire has a Farm to School Network that includes state agencies, such as the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture, as well as agricultural organizations like NOFA NH and the New Hampshire Food Bank.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.