From the tables of foodie locavores to the cafeteria lunch line, the eat local ethos is trickling down. According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, next week the Washington state legislature will consider a bill that, if passed, would be the strongest effort to date toward including local and farm-fresh produce in school lunchrooms. Michael Pollan and Alice Waters can only be pleased.
Farm-to-school efforts are multiplying as parents worry about food safety, states look to cut greenhouse gases, and environmentalists try to preserve land by bolstering farm economies. There have been relatively few successes in Washington, which the proposed legislation aims to change.
‘I don’t think there’s another state that’s putting together such a comprehensive soup-to-nuts package,’ said Thomas Forster, policy director for the national Community Food Security Coalition.
Some of these changes would allow public schools to give preference to local farmers—something that has been considered favoritism in the past. “If the federal language passes, it would open the door for states and local school districts to overhaul bidding and procurement rules that require government agencies to buy the cheapest food,” the article reports.
It’s not an entirely straightforward matter: There’s money to be procured (more than $4 million), debate over how to define local, and the challenge of finding suppliers (one school nutritionist tells stories of visiting farmers’ markets, requesting information from farmers about ordering produce in bulk, and never hearing back), but it’s the most ambitious program to date.
As a policy director for the Washington Environmental Council says, “School nutritionists should have the discretion to say, ‘I want to buy these apples from Wenatchee; they’re fresher and better for my kids,’ without having to go through a bureaucratic nightmare or break the law.”