Menendez, Booker Laud $4.9 Million USDA Cooperative Agreement with New Jersey to Expand Local Foods in School Meals

Government and Politics

December 6, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) praised the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) for signing a cooperative agreement with New Jersey for more than $4.9 million to increase their purchase of nutritious, local foods for school meal programs.

Through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), New Jersey Department of Agriculture will purchase and distribute local and regional foods and beverages for schools to serve children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. These products will be healthy and unique to their geographic area, with the goal of improving child nutrition and building new relationships between schools and local farmers.

“Children throughout New Jersey rely on a nutritionally-balanced breakfast and lunch provided by schools, especially as many families throughout our nation struggle with food insecurity,” said Senator Menendez. “I applaud the Biden Administration for this funding and for their commitment to our state’s children. This agreement will ensure schools have healthy food and beverage options to serve students, all while creating stronger bonds with local farmers and small businesses, and boosting the economy.”

“By connecting local farmers with schools, this agreement will deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to New Jersey children and move communities towards more resilient, regenerative food systems,” said Senator Booker. “I’m pleased to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture and New Jersey Department of Agriculture working together to allow school districts to feed students healthy, nutritious food while supporting local economies and environmental sustainability.”

“This cooperative agreement supporting New Jersey schools is another example of how USDA is working to build a more resilient food system rooted in local and regional production,” said USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt. “The Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program provides an opportunity for states to strengthen ties between local farmers, ranchers, food businesses and schools, and gives students access to nutritious foods unique to the area they live in, building stronger connections across local communities.”

“Strengthening relationships between local producers and schools is a long-term strategy to ensure our children always have access to nutritious foods in school, a win-win for child health and American agriculture,” said Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean. “Through this program and many other efforts to support the school meal programs, USDA is committed to giving schools the tools they need to set children up to learn, grow, and thrive.”

With the LFS funds, NJDA will strengthen the food systems in their schools by helping to expand local food accessibility as well as engage with their local and underserved growers. This program will help further build a resilient local food chain and expand purchasing domestic, locally grown foods from local small businesses and underserved farmers and producers for distribution to schools.

“This agreement adds to the already strong cooperation we have between many of our schools and farmers,” said NJDA Secretary Douglas Fisher. “As with all the programs we administer from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, this will serve as another pathway for school districts to access locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables and other items to be provided to students throughout the Garden State.”

The LFS cooperative agreements will allow organizations the flexibility to design food purchasing programs and establish partnerships with farmers and ranchers that best suit their local needs, accommodate environmental and climate conditions, account for seasonal harvests, improve supply chain resiliency and meet the needs of schools within their service area. Additionally, the program will provide more opportunities for historically underserved producers and processors to sell their products.

The Local Food for Schools cooperative agreement program is one of many ways USDA is supporting school meal programs this school year and transforming our food system in the long term.