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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2008


Attendees Will Look Into The Benefits and Challenges Facing Local Farm-to-School Food Projects On Long Island

Recently Passed 2008 Farm Bill Required Secretary of Agriculture To Encourage Procurement of Unprocessed, Locally Grown Foods But Schools Have Yet to Act

School Lunches Do Not Meet Dietary Guidelines for Americans - Records Show That Food In Long Island School Districts is Processed When Healthy Local Options Are Readily Available

Tomorrow, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer will host a meeting convened by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets with school food directors and local agricultural representatives to discuss local produce and farm procurement for Long Island school districts. The attendees will discuss the benefits of using local farms to supply food to Long Island schools, the assets and challenges such a program would put forth, and how a wide-scale Long Island farm-to-school project could actually be implemented. In response to the 2008 federal Farm Bill, the NYS Department of Education issued guidance, effective October 2008 that applies to procurements in Child Nutrition Programs.  The National School Lunch Act (NSLA) requires the Secretary of Agriculture to encourage institutions operating the Child Nutrition Programs to purchase unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products.The standards for school lunches haven’t been upgraded since the mid-1990s and has left school meals lagging behind the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal government's advice on good dietary habits published every five years.
“We need to make food healthier for our children,” Schumer said. “I am hosting this meeting so that Long Island can start to think about improving our children’s health and improving their nutrition. I am hopeful that we can make some great strides in understanding the problem and outlining some potential solutions. ”
The federal government reimburses schools for the lunches they provide to students.  The government pays a flat rate to schools per lunch, not based on the actual cost of providing the meals.  Because the current federal reimbursement rate is far below the real cost of food, schools are forced to purchase the lowest-cost food possible.  This low reimbursement rate means that schools often cannot afford to buy the more-nutritious, but also more-expensive, local produce.  
School lunches have posed health problems for students for years. Schools' records from the 2007-08 school year show that the ingredients used by Long Island schools in lunches include sliced yellow cheese; meatless, canned spaghetti sauce; beef and chicken products; and potatoes. By using local produce in school lunches, schools could potentially eliminate many of their unhealthy options and improve the nutritional value of these meals. Studies have shown that children who are overweight more often than not carry the weight into adulthood, leading to serious health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
Senator Schumer's Long Island office will host the meeting with food service directors from Bay Shore Public Schools, Riverhead Central School, and Southampton Public Schools. Also attending, representatives from DiCarlo Foods, Harbor View Foods, J Kings, Joe’s Italian Market, T.A. Morris, the Long Island Farm Bureau, and SUNY Stony Brook University Medical Center.
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