USDA, Thompson, Garamendi Announce $23 Million for Local Foods in School Meals

Press Release

Posted: October 30, 2022

Winters – This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Under Secretary Jenny Moffitt and Reps. Mike Thompson and John Garamendi and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry announced a cooperative agreement with California for more than $23 million to increase our state’s purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.

23M local food for school meals

Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), California Department of Education (CDE) will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.

“School lunches are vital to the health and success of students in California. Nutrition plays a key role in school lunches and our local producers are the backbone of providing the food necessary to maintain this system,” said Thompson. “When we provide farm to table meals for our students, they are better prepared for the school day and benefit from fresh and healthy meals. This program will promote a more resilient food system with a foundation of our local producers, and I am proud to work with USDA, our local schools, and local growers to strengthen this program.”

“I am excited to see the USDA making a $24 million investment in California’s farmers and in the well-being of our children. I’ve fought for years to ensure nutritious, American-grown food is the foundation of our school lunch programs nationwide. This program is a big step in that direction, helping California schools support the local producers who’ve helped make our state the fruit and vegetable capital of the world,” said Garamendi.

“I am incredibly appreciative of Congressmen Thompson and Garamendi, and USDA Secretaries Lester Moffit and Dean, for hosting this announcement of California’s partnership on Farm to School programs under the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program,” said Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). “This $23 million in federal support to supplement California’s investments and First Partner Jennifer Siebel-Newsom’s leadership as a champion of healthy meals in schools is a major breakthrough for our kids. We have the momentum to expand a concept we started in my home town of Winters years ago to every child in California.  Fresh, local foods are the building blocks of a healthy child. And, a healthy child is one who we’ve prepared to learn, grow and succeed in life.”

“This cooperative agreement supporting California schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”

“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school, a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grow, and thrive.”

With the LFS funds, CDE will strengthen local and regional purchasing relationships between School Food Authorities (SFA) participating in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program with local farmers and producers. Schools and students will benefit from the economic support from the program to continue to provide fresh and minimally processed local foods in school meals.

“California is thrilled to receive over $23 million in local assistance funding from USDA for our schools operating the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. As the first state in the nation to adopt a permanent Universal Meals Program for our students, this funding aligns with the historic investments California is making to transform schools and ensure every public school student has access to not only a nutritious breakfast and lunch each school day, but also meals that are minimally processed, delicious, culturally relevant, California-grown and sourced from historically underserved producers” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

The LFS cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area. Additionally, the program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products.  Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program is authorized by the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act. AMS looks forward to continuing to sign agreements under this innovative program.  

For more information on USDA’s work to support school meal programs visit USDA Support for School Meals page.