When you think processed food, what comes to mind? Probably junk like breakfast cereal, canned ham, grape drink, nacho cheese and the nutritional vacuum that is white bread.
You certainly wouldn’t classify locally grown organic produce as processed food. Even if it were pre-sliced by the farm that grew it—right?
No, the USDA doesn’t see it that way. According to legislation, organic fruits and veggies, grown locally, but pre-sliced outside the school cannot be given to school kids. It’s considered processed.
The catch-22, as it were, is almost too ridiculous to talk about, but here goes. In 2008, The Farm Bill, via the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program, allows schools to buy local produce that has not been processed for students to snack on outside of the school cafeteria.
And for schools’ convenience, the program works best when small farms wash, slice and bag produce ahead of time. However, the interpretation of the United States Department of Agriculture bill considers these prepared fruits and vegetables processed: The Albany Project reports.
As a result, local farms, who like much of the country are struggling financially, miss out on an additional revenue opportunity and young students, who already eat to many unhealthy foods, like hotdogs and grilled cheese, the chance to enjoy fresh fruits and veggies.
Now, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Darrel J. Aubertine N.Y. State Senator recently wrote a letter Secretary U.S. Department of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack, imploring him to revise the legislation. And you can too!
Here’s the address: Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400, Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20250.