California Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry introduced a bill last week that would create the first-ever Organic-to-School pilot program. The pilot would facilitate schools' ability to serve California-produced, certified organic food by allowing schools to apply for up to 15 cents in reimbursement on qualifying products.
The bill gives schools serving a high percentage of low-income children and schools near agricultural fields top priority. Low-income communities are often exposed to more toxic pesticides, reports show.
“More organic food in schools will mean less pesticide exposure for California’s most vulnerable children,” writes the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It also means fewer farmworkers exposed to toxic pesticides in their workplaces, more protection for honeybees and other pollinators, and more climate-friendly farms to help move California closer to reaching its climate action goals.”
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“Though the federal government is intent on going backwards when it comes to children’s health," the NRDC continues, "here in California, we are moving full steam ahead to ensure that tens of thousands of California students who rely on free or reduced-price school meals have healthier options on their breakfast trays and lunch plates.”
This is not the only recent change to school lunches proposed in California. Earlier this month, California Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian announced legislation that would increase the availability of plant-based meals and milk in California public schools. The initiative, also known as the Healthy Climate-Friendly School Lunch Act, was touted for its projected positive influence on both the carbon footprint of California public schools and the health of students.
California is currently the national leader in organic food production, boasting over 1 million certified organic acres, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service.
The U.S. organic market reached a record-breaking $45.2 billion in 2017. A Nielsen market report released earlier this year shows that markups on organic food are falling, due in large part to increased availability of these products in non-specialty supermarket chains like Kroger, Target, and Costco.
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