RELEASE:

COCHRAN VOTES TO ADVANCE CHILD NUTRITION BILL

Ag Committee Measure Includes Leahy-Cochran Farm to School Plan to Expand Home-State Food Options for Schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) today voted to advance child nutrition legislation that includes provisions to expand opportunities for local farmers to provide agriculture products for school meal programs.

Cochran is a senior member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, which approved the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016. The bipartisan legislation would reauthorize child nutrition programs through FY2020 and provide schools with greater flexibility to meet nutritional standards.

“This bill should help make our children better students by ensuring they have access to healthy food. It also creates opportunities to involve local agriculture in school meals, while turning back some of the regulatory excesses arising from the 2010 child nutrition law,” Cochran said. “I am pleased that the Farm to School program has been strengthened to promote home-state foods in our schools and bring more local farmers into that process.”

Cochran and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) advocated the inclusion of their Farm to School Act (S.569) in the overall bill. These provisions would expand participation in this popular program to more schools, including land-grant colleges and universities, preschools, summer food service sites and after school programs. In addition to reducing barriers to participation by farmers, the Leahy-Cochran provisions would also create incentives for beginning, veteran and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to participate. It would also allow greater use of agriculture and aquaculture (including catfish) products.

The Farm to School program has benefited a number of Mississippi school districts and organizations, including the Oxford schools, the Mississippi Band of Choctaws Indians and the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.

Overall, Mississippi children benefit from the programs reauthorized in the Agriculture Committee bill, including school lunch and breakfast programs, the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program, and after-school and summer food programs. Among other things, the bill would allow states to increase the WIC cutoff to the age of six.

The bill would ease nutritional mandates, including modifications of the controversial 100 percent whole grain standard established after enactment of the 2010 child nutrition reauthorization bill. The new legislation also strengthens efforts to fight waste and fraud in school meal programs.

The legislation is now available for consideration by the full Senate.

1/20/16