Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan have announced a new initiative - 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' - to begin a national conversation to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity. To launch the initiative, Secretary Vilsack recorded a video to invite Americans to join the discussion and share their ideas for ways to support local agriculture. The video, one of many means by which USDA will engage in this conversation, can be viewed at USDA's YouTube channel.
Producers and consumers can comment on the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' YouTube playlist, as well as submit videos or provide comments on this initiative by e-mailing KnowYourFarmer@usda.gov.
The initiative also includes a component specifically intended to better connect children to their food and create opportunities for local farmers to provide their harvest to schools in their communities. USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) will team together and form 'Farm to School Tactical Teams' to assist school administrators as they transition to purchasing more locally grown foods. 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. Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Julie Paradis made the announcement on Merrigan's behalf at the Homegrown School Lunch Week Kickoff in
"It is important that our children have access to healthy, nutritious food and our focus on enabling schools to purchase local produce will provide opportunities for local producers," said Merrigan. "This will enable greater wealth creation in communities by allowing producers to build their capacity by serving 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. USDA will partner with schools, the U.S. Department of Education and non-profits to develop and enhance these resources. Additional information will be made available soon.
This announcement is just one component of USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative to help develop local and regional food systems and spur economic opportunity. By successfully restoring the link between consumers with local producers there can be new income opportunities for farmers and generate wealth that will stay in rural communities; a greater focus on sustainable agricultural practices; and families can better access healthy, fresh, locally grown food.
For more on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, click here.
For more on the program for schools, click here.