(TRENTON) – A four-bill legislative package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro, Eric Houghtaling and Bob Andrzejczak to help promote the New Jersey Farm to School Program, and encourage the use of more locally grown foods in the meals prepared in schools, colleges and universities in the state was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
“The New Jersey Farm to School program provides hands-on opportunities to help students learn about local agriculture, how food grows and what it means to eat healthy,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Teaching our young people about the benefits of eating locally grown foods by partnering with our schools can help young people develop healthier eating habits, instill a sense of pride in New Jersey’s agricultural richness and support the state’s farmers who make it all happen.”
“Eating healthy does not come naturally to many young people,” said Taliaferro (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Creating more opportunities to highlight and expand on the success of the New Jersey Farm to School program not only helps advance the Jersey Fresh brand and the concept of buying locally, but instills the importance of making healthier food choices to students.”
“The more schools that participate in the Farm to School Program, the better it is for our students and the state’s agricultural industry,” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic/Cape May/Cumberland). “Encouraging more partnerships between the program and our schools, colleges and universities can introduce students to healthier foods grown locally and further promote the Jersey Fresh brand.”
The first bill (A-3058), sponsored by Taliaferro, Houghtaling and Andrzejczak, would establish the Farm to School Coordinating Council in the state Department of Agriculture.
The council would examine all areas of the New Jersey Farm to School Program and identify any outstanding issues or problems that need to be resolved and areas in need of improvement. The council would also focus on the procurement process relating to the purchase of agricultural products by schools from New Jersey farmers, and recommend ways to increase the participation of both farmers and schools in the program. The council would also make recommendations on ways to promote and increase the use of fresh farm foods at schools throughout the state.
The council, within one year after its first meeting, would prepare and submit a written report to the governor and to the Legislature with its findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
The second bill (A-3059), sponsored by Houghtaling, Taliaferro and Andrzejczak, would establish the “New Jersey Farm to Public Institution of Higher Education Program.
The bill would require the Department of Agriculture to adopt regulations that:
- provide encouragement for public institutions of higher education that provide meal programs to expand or improve their kitchen facilities to allow for the daily production of meals that incorporate more fresh, locally grown or produced farm produce, fruit or other products;
- establish a bidding matrix that provides for public institutions of higher education to purchase New Jersey grown food and allows them to adopt price preferences for local agricultural and farm products;
- in conjunction with the Secretary of Higher Education, develop ways in which public institutions of higher education can increase the procurement of locally grown or produced farm produce, fruit or other products for use in meals; and
- create a public directory for New Jersey farmers with contact information of purchasing agents at public institutions of higher education, and another public directory for purchasers with information about qualified New Jersey farmers and distributors.
Under the bill, the department would also establish a website with information about the program while also soliciting contributions to support the program.
The third bill (A-3060), sponsored by Andrzejczak and Taliaferro, would authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to allow a school to use the words “New Jersey Farm Fresh School” in any promotional materials or description of the school upon receiving proof that at least 20 percent of the food served by the school consists of farm products grown and produced in New Jersey.
The fourth bill (A-3061), sponsored by Andrzejczak and Taliaferro, would direct the Department of Agriculture to accept and post on its website recipes submitted to the department by any public or nonpublic school that participates in the New Jersey “Farm to School” program.
The bill (A-3058) was approved 72-0, the bill (A-3059) was approved 73-0, the bill (A-3060) was approved 73-0 and the bill (A-3061) was approved 71-0-1. All four bills now await further consideration by the Senate.