New legislation would increase accountability and transparency for the “Buy American” provisions of the National School Lunch Act
Northern California Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) introduced H.R. 1241, the “American Food for American Schools” Act. The bill is designed to bring more accountability and transparency to the “Buy American” provisions of the National School Lunch Act. Under current law, school districts are required to use domestically-sourced products for school lunches wherever practical but may request a waiver from the Department of Agriculture if the cost of domestic sourcing is significantly higher. Unfortunately, these waiver requests do not always occur. This bipartisan legislation would legally require school nutrition providers to seek a waiver in order to use taxpayer dollars to purchase foreign commodities and products. Additionally, waiver requests must be made available to the public to ensure accountability and provide American farmers and food providers an opportunity to seek out school districts that need affordable American-grown food.
Congressman LaMalfa said: “Northern California produces some of the highest quality food in the world, unfortunately, school districts too often look elsewhere to provide students with foreign food that is not held to the same standards of safety and quality. The Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch Act were created to ensure our children enjoy fresh, local produce instead of potentially less healthy alternatives from overseas. This bill increases transparency for schools who request a waiver to use foreign products in school lunches and helps to ensure our tax dollars are used to buy American produce and to support American agriculture. I appreciate the work of my colleague, Mr. Garamendi, on this issue and I hope we can continue to gather bi-partisan support for buying American products and improving child nutrition.”
“One of the best ways to make sure our kids have local produce is to enforce the existing Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch Act,” said Congressman Garamendi. “These provisions are designed to ensure taxpayer dollars support U.S. jobs and businesses, and they have the added benefit of increasing the amount of American-grown food our children enjoy through the school lunch program. We have seen too many instances of school districts, including some in my district, importing foreign food unnecessarily without the proper disclosure. Recently, we’ve even seen recalls of imported foods owing to disease outbreaks when that same produce could have been sourced locally right here in California, subject to the highest food safety standards in the world. That’s why my colleague Doug LaMalfa and I have written legislation that will increase transparency and strengthen enforcement of these important standards.”
The legislation has already earned support from key agricultural groups. “When local school districts use taxpayer dollars to purchase and import food products that are readily available here, it is a real slap in the face to American farmers who are required to comply with a host of laws and regulations to ensure they are producing the safest supply of food in the world,” said Rich Hudgins, president and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association. “Yet China is notorious for environmental, human rights and food safety violations so why are we using taxpayer dollars to buy their food products and risk the health and safety of our children?”
Rob Larew, Senior Vice-President of Public Policy and Communications for the National Farmers Union, said, “The school lunch laws were designed to ensure all school-age children have access to high quality, nutritious food products, like those grown and produced by U.S. farmers and ranchers. By improving transparency and enforcement of the Buy American provisions, through the American Food for American Schools Act, we can better support both American agriculture and child nutrition.”