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Garamendi Reintroduces American Food for American Schools Act

February 7, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) reintroduced the American Food for American Schools Act (H.R.1066) to strengthen “Buy American” requirements under the National School Lunch Program, with Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) as the original cosponsor. The Congressmen’s bipartisan bill would also increase transparency so that parents are informed when students are served foreign-produced foods paid for by taxpayers.

“Even in Northern Californian and Central Valley farming communities, some school districts use taxpayer dollars to buy imported foods. Some of those imported foods have been recalled due to safety concerns, when they could have been sourced locally in California,” said Congressman Garamendi (D-CA). “That’s why my American Food for American Schools Act would ensure that our schoolchildren are served nutritious, American-grown foods, produced under the strictest safety standards in the world.”

“Buying and using American-grown food products and improving nutrition for children in our schools should be an issue that both sides of the aisle can support,” said Congressman LaMalfa (R-CA). I’m happy to join with my colleague, Mr. Garamendi, to help ensure our children enjoy fresh, local produce instead of potentially less desirable alternatives from overseas. This bill holds school districts accountable for constantly requesting waivers to purchase foreign food products and helps ensure our tax dollars are used to buy healthy, high-quality, American-grown and made products for school lunches. It’s preferable to utilize food items that are produced right here in Northern California or in the USA.”

The bipartisan American Food for American Schools Act (H.R.1066) strengthens the “Buy American” provisions in current federal law requiring school districts to purchase domestically sourced products for in-school meals. Under the bill, school districts would be required to obtain a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase foreign-sourced food products funded by the National School Lunch Program. Any such USDA waivers would only be granted if the domestically produced food was cost prohibitive or simply unavailable. Congressman Garamendi’s bill would also require that school districts notify parents of all foreign-sourced foods served to students, by posting any such waivers obtained from the USDA on the school’s website. This would increase public transparency and provide American farmers an opportunity to seek out school districts that need affordable domestically grown foods.

The American Food for American Schools Act has already earned support from key agricultural groups, in California and nationwide.

“When local school districts use taxpayer dollars to purchase and import food products that are readily available here, it is a real slap in the face to American farmers who are required to comply with a host of laws and regulations to ensure they are producing the safest supply of food in the world,” said Rich Hudgins, president and CEO of the California Canning Peach Association. “Yet China is notorious for environmental, human rights and food safety violations so why are we using taxpayer dollars to buy their food products and risk the health and safety of our children?”

The full text of H.R.1066 is available here. The bill currently awaits action by the House Committee on Education and Labor, which has jurisdiction over the USDA’s National School Lunch Program.