A new rule passed by the Food and Nutrition Service now specifically allows local food to be preferentially purchased by public institutions including schools.
The rule is referred to as the “Geographic Preference Option for the Procurement of Unprocessed Agricultural Products in Child Nutrition Programs” and it applies to any public institution which receives funding through the Child Nutrition Act – which is part of the 2008 Farm Bill. The rule which specifies that public institutions “may apply an optional geographic preference in the procurement of unprocessed locally grown or locally raised agricultural products” clears the way for local food to be preferentially purchased by schools and other public institutions including state agencies.
Though this was happening in many places already, there were concerns that “farm to school” programs and other public entities were in conflict with rules regarding interstate trade and other provisions. If you are interested in learning more about the rule, reading the summary or text, you can check it out in the Federal Register at: http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2011/04/22/2011-9843/geographic-preference-option-for-the-procurement-of-unprocessed-agricultural-products-in-child.