Dear Vermont Policy Makers:
We, the undersigned, collectively write to ask you to support school purchasing of Vermont food by establishing a state-funded local purchasing incentive program, with an appropriation of $500,000 for FY2022. The program would result in direct support to Vermont producers, making it easier for school nutrition programs to buy local.
We know that Farm to School is a great investment for Vermont. Every $1 spent on local food in Vermont schools contributes an additional 60¢ to the local economy. Vermont schools spend a total of about $15 million on food each year and we want more of those dollars going to Vermont producers. If schools purchased even 20% local food, that would result in $4.8 million contributed to the Vermont economy, annually.
Farm to school promotes healthy eating habits with students that prevent diet-related diseases. Currently, 26% of VT teens are overweight or obese, and Farm to School can help to reverse that trend. Farm to School helps schools serve healthier, local food, which has been proven to increase participation in school nutrition programs. That means more kids, especially those coming from homes that are struggling to put food on their own tables, are eating nutritious meals, which help them grow and thrive at school. And, the impact of Farm to School goes beyond the school day – these programs also provide important nutrition education and help students to learn healthy habits for life. Farm to School provides opportunities for students to experience and to develop a taste for fresh and local foods.
Finally, we know that our communities are stronger when we have strong connections between our families, our schools, and our farms. Farm to School helps these connections grow, and helps to provide opportunities for community members to learn about where their food comes from, and how to connect with local farmers in meaningful ways.
We fully support a local purchasing incentive program for schools in Vermont and ask for your support.