California Tests Program To Subsidize Organic Food In Schools

May 1, 2019

Credit foodtank.com

Organic food isn't served in most California school districts...because it costs more. But a bill moving through the legislature would launch a pilot to help schools buy organic food. Capital Public Radio's Julia Mitric has more.

School districts would get 15 cents of additional funding per meal to buy organic produce, dairy and meat from California.

Right now, districts have about $1.25 to spend on each school meal, including labor costs. That's a rough estimate from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the bill's sponsor.

The NRDC's Lena [Lay-nah] Brook says the pilot is a way to gather information about how different districts could include organic purchasing. 

"To understand what their challenges are, what the opportunities are, so that as this program hopefully grows over time, we can be much more informed and targeted."

This school year, California budgeted 164 million dollars to reimburse school districts for free and reduced breakfast and lunch for K-12.

Supporters of the bill are pursuing 2 million dollars in additional funding for the organic school [meal] pilot through the budget process.

That may sound like a drop in the bucket, says Evan Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, an advocacy group supporting the bill. But he says it's a key first step.

"And so what this allows is not only to get healthy, sustainably grown produce into school cafeterias but it also allows for organic farms throughout California to also take advantage of this new sales outlet to sell direct to our school districts."

Right now, the state's colleges and universities aren't required to buy California grown food - let alone organic.

In Sacramento, I'm Julia Mitric.