Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan says Americans are more interested in food and agriculture than at any other time since most families left the farm. To stir that interest and develop a national conversation, USDA has introduced a program called "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food". Merrigan says "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" seeks to focus that conversation on supporting local and regional food systems to strengthen American agriculture by promoting sustainable agricultural practices and spurring economic opportunity in rural communities.
USDA announced a small initial group of moves that seek to connect local production and consumption and promote local-scale sustainable operations. Those programs will provide $3.4 million in funding for collaborative outreach and assistance programs to socially disadvantaged and underserved farmers; implement a new voluntary cooperative program under which select state-inspected establishments will be eligible to ship meat and poultry products in interstate commerce; and strengthen the relationship between local food processors and customers in parts of Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says reconnecting consumers and institutions with local producers will stimulate economies in rural communities, improve access to healthy, nutritious food for families, and decrease the amount of resources to transport our food.
The initiative will also better connect children to their food and create opportunities for local farmers to provide their harvest to schools in their communities. According to Merrigan, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service will team together and form 'Farm to School Tactical Teams' to assist school administrators as they transition to purchasing more locally grown foods.
As part of the newly announce program, the agencies will also issue updated common-sense purchasing guidance to schools so they can buy fresh, locally grown produce for students eating through USDA's school nutrition programs. Merrigan says the program will provide opportunities for local producers by allowing them to build their capacity to serve local institutional customers like schools.
USDA's Farm-To-School Tactical Teams will soon begin touring America's school cafeterias to identify challenges and opportunities to help them transition to purchasing more locally grown foods. The team will work with local farmers, local and state authorities, school districts, and community partners to develop Farm-To-School projects and provide assistance on the best ways to buy more local produce for the National School Lunch Program.