Bill would expand farm-to-school program

Early childhood education programs would be included in the Nebraska farm-to-school program under a bill considered Jan. 18 by the Education Committee.

Sen. Tom Brandt
Sen. Tom Brandt

Lawmakers created the program in 2021 with passage of a bill sponsored by Plymouth Sen. Tom Brandt requiring the state Department of Education to administer a program to help provide locally grown and minimally processed food to elementary and secondary school students in Nebraska.

Brandt introduced LB758 this session to expand the law to include early childhood education programs, which he said were excluded from the original proposal inadvertently.

“Unfortunately, the language that we passed last year was too restrictive and the assistance could only be offered to elementary and secondary schools,” Brandt said. “LB758 corrects this oversight.”

Sara Smith, farm-to-school specialist at the state Department of Education, testified in support of the bill. A 2017 study found that only 20 percent of Nebraska early childhood programs were engaged in farm-to-school activities, she said, but 67 percent of providers indicated an interest in curriculum activates that would help them do so.

“There is potential to have a life-long impact on our communities when leveraging farm-to-school and farm-to-preschool as a pathway to advance equity [involving] food access and security,” Smith said. “Inclusion of these opportunities for our littlest eaters is critical.”

Testifying in support of LB758 on behalf of Nebraska Cattlemen and six other agricultural organizations, Marcus Urban of Leigh said the bill would strengthen agricultural producers’ reach and impact on education in Nebraska.

“Farm-to-school curriculum opportunities are endless,” Marcus said. “When you’re able to connect the food a student eats to the people who raise it, you’re able to build connections beyond the school classroom walls.”

Also in support was Sara Howard of First Five Nebraska. Agricultural producers in some rural parts of the state have expressed interest in donating food to early childhood programs, she said, but providers are unclear about whether they can accept such assistance under current law. LB758 would offer needed clarity, Howard said.

No one testified against the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

Bookmark and Share