Acting Governor Kim Guadagno signed five bills yesterday at Terhune Orchards that support and streamline New Jersey’s farm-to- school program with the goal of increasing student access to healthy, locally-grown foods.
“Children who live in the Garden State should have ready access to the more than 100 varieties of produce grown by our state’s 9,000-plus farms,” Guadagno said. “By signing these bipartisan bills, we are nurturing a program that puts more of these healthy, locally-grown foods directly into the hands of our kids while supporting New Jersey’s third-largest industry, agriculture.”
In 2012, the state’s 9,071 farms on 715,057 acres generated sales totaling $1.14 billion.
The package of unanimously passed bills supporting the farm-to-school program allows farmers to better connect with schools and food bank, officials said. The bills that were signed include:
· A-156 – Requires the Department of Agriculture to post on its website certain information regarding the state’s farm-to-school program.
· A-2641 – Provides for voluntary contributions on gross income tax returns to support farm-to-school and school gardens programs.
· A-2642 – Allows contributions to the New Jersey farm-to-school program.
· A-2643 – Establishes “Best in New Jersey Farm-to-School Awards Program” to annually recognize the best farm-to-school programs implemented by a school or school district.
· A-2644 – Directs the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to establish a clearinghouse website for farmers to offer produce and dairy products for use by school breakfast programs, school lunch programs and food banks.
“I’m proud to sign these bills, which fuel a program that fuels our kids,” Guadagno said.
More than 250 New Jersey schools participate in a farm-to-school program, connecting school nutrition with local farms. The programs improve the quality of school meals and strengthen relationships in the community while helping children understand where their food comes from through the integration of food-related education into the curriculum and hands-on learning activities such as school gardening, farm visits and culinary classes.
“The Farm Bureau has been a steadfast supporter of the Farm to School and recent School Gardens programs,” said Ryck Suydam, President of the New Jersey Farm Bureau. “We think they substantially improve the understanding of food nutrition among the student population and also provide the potential for an expansion of our great Jersey Fresh produce onto the menus of school lunches and other meals provided by school districts. It’s a win-win for nutrition and local farmers. We applaud Acting Governor Guadagno for signing these bills.”
Following the bill signing, Guadagno toured Terhune Orchards. The farm provides produce and cider to eight schools in the area.
Acting Governor Guadagno was joined by Assemblywoman Donna Simon (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher, and New Jersey Department of Education Acting Commissioner David Hespe.