Healthier Food in Schools

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Foods from our grown in our local farms and gardens often cost more than canned wholesale products.
Schools like Waterville can get cash subsidies and USDA foods from the USDA for each meal they serve.
However with reimbursement rates the same for nearly 40 years, Oneida County Legislator Colin Idzi is asking for an increase from 6 to 31 cents based on the percentage of New York State food the school has purchased.

Idzi adds, “40 years is a long time, to keep it at six cents for that long, it’s not only not helping out our school, but more schools that want to get more involved with supplying local products.”

Waterville has made strides in locally produced lunches, after being selected to take part of the farm to school initiative, but current rates make it difficult for the district to purchase homegrown corn and beans, costing them roughly a dollar a pound.

Tracy Leone, the Business Official for Waterville says, “A serving is about a quarter of a pound, so that meets the regulation for a quarter of a pound vegetable serving, that would be 25 cents. Right now, use of commodity, we’re spending about 8 cents. So we have a 17 cent gap, in order to utilize our local producers, our local farmers, and bring that back into our local community. So how do we do that?”

While it may be a difficult answer, Leone says a statewide initiative by the governor to push this local initiative to other school districts in our region.

Leone adds, “There are some pilots that New York State can put out with the fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, and that’s one way that we can start to divert some of the usage of money right now. And with that pilot you can take some of that commodity money, and you can utilize that and purchase some of those fruits and vegetables through those farmers that are on that.

There is legislation at the State level that would enhance the reimbursement rate from 6 to 31 cents.
Currently Assemblywoman Addie Russell is sponsoring the legislation, while Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is a co-sponsor for the bill.
 

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