At a recent interactive health care strategy meeting, none other than President Obama sang the praises of local food and even discussed the idea of having a farmers’ market outside of the White House! While that might be a lofty goal, it is more than heartening to see the President of the United States acknowledging the benefits of local healthy foods to school children and the need to set up infrastructure to facilitate the distribution of local foods to schools. From President Obama:
When it comes to food, one of the things that we are doing is working with school districts. And the child nutrition legislation is going to be coming up. We provide an awful lot of school lunches out there and -- and reimburse local school districts for school-lunch programs. Let's figure out how can we get some fresh fruits and vegetables in the mix. Because sometimes you go into schools and -- you know what the menu is, you know? It's French fries, Tater Tots, hot dogs, pizza…it turns out that that food's a lot cheaper, because of the distributions that we've set up. And so what we've got to do is to change how we think about, for example, getting local farmers connected to school districts, because that would benefit the farmers, delivering fresh produce, but right now they just don't have the distribution mechanisms set up.
OK Mr. President! Sounds great! The intention is there! So let’s see what we can do about setting up this infrastructure. The other day I wrote about the recent law passed in Illinois that mandates local food purchases from state agencies to the tune of 20% of all purchases by 2020. We already have a National Student Lunch Program, among other federal programs that subsidize student meals at schools and other non-profit agencies. Why not a national law that mirrors the Illinois statute? A mandate that a certain percent of lunches in each state under the federal program come from foods produced locally within each respective state? Perhaps it could be an amendment to the Energy Bill currently being knocked around Washington. There can only be a reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere if this food doesn’t have to travel as far. Furthermore, creating a local food infrastructure can help create jobs that can’t be exported. Local fresh foods for children? Jobs? Sounds good to me.