Congressmen LaMalfa, Garamendi, reintroduce the American Food for American Schools Act

Congressmen Doug LaMalfa and John Garamendi reintroduced the American Food for American Schools Act, a bill to make sure American-made food is being served in school lunches. Senator Mike Braun and Senator Sherrod Brown introduced a companion bill in the Senate. This bill is endorsed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition, Indiana Farm Bureau, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the North American Blueberry Council.

“American dollars should support American-produced food products,” LaMalfa said. “U.S. farmers produce some of the safest and most nutritious food worldwide for our families and children while creating American jobs. This bipartisan bill is sensible.”

“Even in Northern Californian and Central Valley farming communities, some school districts use taxpayer dollars to buy imported foods,” said Garamendi. “Some of those imported foods have been recalled due to safety concerns, when they could have been sourced locally in California. That’s why my American Food for American Schools Act would ensure that our schoolchildren are served nutritious, American-grown foods, produced under the strictest safety standards in the world.”

“Our school lunch programs should be supporting American agriculture rather than importing food: it’s safer, healthier, and supports our economy rather than China’s,” said Braun. “I took the lead with Senator Brown to introduce the American Food for American Schools Act in the Senate because American kids should be eating American-grown food in our schools,”

“The food our kids get at school should be American-produced food, that supports American jobs in our communities,” said Brown. “There’s no reason for schools to buy food products from overseas, when they could get fresh fruits and vegetables from Ohio farmers, and when union bakers and confectioners and other workers make bread and snacks and canned foods here in Ohio. Our bill would require schools to buy American products for all in-school meals and ensure American tax dollars support American jobs.”

Background

  • This bill would provide extensive structure to the National School Lunch Program’s Buy America language. It would codify limited exceptions to the requirement — only granting waivers when domestic commodities or products are not reasonably available in sufficient quality or quantities. If a waiver is received, schools must notify parents that American food is not being provided. Waivers can only be granted for up to 5 percent of the total annual commercial food costs of a school food authority within each food component.
  • The bill requires USDA to publish information about the adoption of the Buy America requirement — including both a list of granted waivers and of foreign products purchased without a waiver. This information would serve as a “market” for domestic producers to challenge the waiver or enter the market with domestic content.
  • In order to streamline the “Buy America” contracting process, the bill would impose Buy American contract requirements for school food procurement. This will lighten the load of School Food Authorities, who may currently have issues creating or demanding language in contract negotiations. If an SFA is provided illegal products in breach of the contract (as in a last-minute substitution), the school would have safe harbor. USDA would have authority to seek reimbursement from commercial food suppliers for illegal foreign-sourced products that violate Buy America contract language. These funds would finance USDA’s Buy American Procurement Training Program.
  • Finally, the bill would subject other USDA school feeding programs (afterschool snacks, summer food service, child and adult care food, special milk, and school breakfast) to the Buy America requirement, which currently only applies to the NSLP.