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house Bill H.R. 1066

Should Waivers be Required to Buy Foreign Food for the National School Lunch Program?

Argument in favor

This commonsense, bipartisan bill ensures that Buy American provisions in the National School Lunch Program are followed by requiring waivers whenever school food authorities want to buy foreign commodities or products because of the scarcity or cost of domestic options.

Chickie's Opinion
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04/05/2019
I strongly support this bill. There are children in the US whose only well rounded food is when they receive lunch at school, (not too long ago breakfast as well). If the schools can provide fresh food that is better, (either because it’s a better quality or better price), our children deserve them. As all Americans, at times certain foods are recalled. These fresh foods can be from other countries AND foods from the US. Because this administration has made it part of their platform to diminish the roles and personnel at the FDA and EPA, the FDA must be allowed to address those issues as quickly and proficiently as possible.
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Gopin2018's Opinion
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04/05/2019
Why are we buying foreign food for our school lunch program, that’s nuts. Only American grown food must be used, it’s not only safer, more nutritious but good for our farmers and our economy. America first. #MAGA
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04/05/2019
Yes, Please support The United States first. Also, buy Organic, Non-GMO first.
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Argument opposed

The current exceptions process for Buy American provisions in the National School Lunch Program is sufficient, as a more stringent waiver request process would lead to more domestic goods being purchased which cost taxpayers more.

Jim2423's Opinion
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04/05/2019
I am not sure what they consider foreign foods. Most of our fresh vegetables come from Mexico and below all winter long. This Bill makes no sense.
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burrkitty's Opinion
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04/05/2019
Ever hear of seasonality? This is foolish and short sighted. What are we going to feed the kids in the winter? Frozen pizza? The USA doesn’t produce fresh food year round. Dumb dumb dumb.
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Thomas's Opinion
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04/05/2019
Looks like we are adding more paperwork to an existing process.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Education and Labor
    IntroducedFebruary 7th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 1066?

This bill would require school food authorities (SFAs) to request a waiver from the Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to purchase foreign commodities or products for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Waivers could only be granted if: 1) domestic commodities or products aren’t produced in sufficient amounts or of satisfactory quality; 2) domestic commodities or products would be significantly higher in price; and 3) the SFA agrees to make the waiver publicly available on its website and email a notification to parents or guardians of students who will be served the foreign commodity or product.

Under current law, Buy American provisions require SFAs to buy domestic commodities or products for the NSLP to the maximum extent possible. There are limited exceptions permitting the purchase of foreign products or commodities if using domestic products isn’t truly practicable, but there is no requirement to request a waiver — the SFA only needs to keep documentation justifying the exception.

Impact

Students in the NSLP and their families; domestic and foreign producers of commodities and goods that are purchased by school food authorities; and the USDA.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 1066

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to strengthen the National School Lunch Program's "Buy American" requirements and increase transparency so parents are informed when students are served foreign-produced foods paid for by taxpayers:

“Even in Northern Californian and Central Valley farming communities, some school districts use taxpayer dollars to buy imported foods. Some of those imported foods have been recalled due to safety concerns, when they could have been sourced locally in California. That’s why my American Food for American Schools Act would ensure that our schoolchildren are served nutritious, American-grown foods, produced under the strictest safety standards in the world.”

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), an original cosponsor of this bill in the current Congress and its lead sponsor in the 115th Congress, adds

“Buying and using American-grown food products and improving nutrition for children in our schools should be an issue that both sides of the aisle can supportI’m happy to join with my colleague, Mr. Garamendi, to help ensure our children enjoy fresh, local produce instead of potentially less desirable alternatives from overseas. This bill holds school districts accountable for constantly requesting waivers to purchase foreign food products and helps ensure our tax dollars are used to buy healthy, high-quality, American-grown and made products for school lunches. It’s preferable to utilize food items that are produced right here in Northern California or in the USA.”

Last Congress, Rep. LaMalfa (R-CA) introduced this bill to bring more accountability to the "Buy American" provisions of the National School Lunch Act:

“Northern California produces some of the highest quality food in the world, unfortunately school districts too often look elsewhere to provide students with foreign food that is not held to the same standards of safety and quality. The Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch Act were created to provide students with foreign food that is not held to the same standards of safety and quality. The Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch Act were created to ensure our children enjoy fresh, local produce instead of potentially less healthy alternatives from overseas. This bill increases transparency for schools who request a waiver to use foreign products in school lunches and helps to ensure our tax dollars are used to buy American produce and to support American agriculture.”

Last Congress, Rep. Garamendi — then an original cosponsor of this bill — added:

“One of the best ways to make sure our kids have local produce is to enforce the existing Buy American provisions of the National School Lunch Act. These provisions are designed to ensure taxpayer dollars support U.S. jobs and businesses, and they have the added benefit of increasing the amount of American-grown food our children enjoy through the school lunch program. We have seen too many instances of school districts, including some in my district, importing foreign food unnecessarily without the proper disclosure. Recently, we’ve even seen recalls of imported foods owing to disease outbreaks when that same produce could have been sourced locally right here in California, subject to the highest food safety standards in the world.”

The California Canning Peach Association supports this bill. Its president and CEO, Rich Hudgins, says

“When local school districts use taxpayer dollars to purchase and import food products that are readily available here, it is a real slap in the face to American farmers who are required to comply with a host of laws and regulations to ensure they are producing the safest supply of food in the world. Yet China is notorious for environmental, human rights and food safety violations so why are we using taxpayer dollars to buy their food products and risk the health and safety of our children?”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) supports this bill. Its Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications, Rob Larew, says

“The school lunch laws were designed to ensure all school-age children have access to high quality, nutritious food products, like those grown and produced by U.S. farmers and ranchers. By improving transparency and enforcement of the Buy American provisions, through the American Food for American Schools Act, we can better support both American agriculture and child nutrition. When school food providers are using U.S. taxpayer money to purchase food, they should be buying American grown foods where possible. Providing USDA with greater authority to enforce farm-to-school lunch programs will help connect more students with fresh, local foods. These programs can also improve understanding of where our food comes from by strengthening local farmer relationships within the community. I urge Congress to support this legislation that will benefit agriculture, education and communities, alike.

In 2015, Michelle Drake, director of food and nutrition services for the Elk Grove Unified school district in Sacramento, California, defended her district's decision to buy 336 cases of diced peaches from China to serve students fruit parfait. The peaches cost the district $25.38 per case, and would've cost $7.63 more per case had the district bought California-grown cases. Drake said

"When we get our bids ... we look at all the specifications. The (National School Lunch) Act states preference will be given to locally grown (foods) to the maximum extent possible. Price is something that we have to look at sometimes. On occasion, we have to make a choice. We do work very hard to give preference to local and domestic products. It is very important to us that our children get the freshest, best product.”

This bill has 17 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 12 Democrats and five Republicans, in the 116th Congress.

In the 115th Congress, the House version of this bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug LaMalfa (D-CA), had the support of 21 bipartisan cosponsors, including 12 Democrats and nine Republicans, and didn't receive a committee vote. A Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and one cosponsor, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), also failed to receive a committee vote.

A number of agricultural groups, including the National Council of Farmer CooperativesCalifornia Canning Peach Association, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Farmers Union (NFU) support this bill.


Of Note: Although the "Buy American" regulation already requires school districts to source all of their school food domestically, they're allowed to bypass this restriction if they can demonstrate to the USDA that imported food is "significantly" cheaper. Critics of this practice argue that because food safety standards abroad may not be as rigorous as within the U.S., districts' exploitation of this loophole could put American kids at risk of food-borne illnesses. They also point out that "significantly" in a cost context is too subjective as a standard for allowing school districts to bypass the "Buy American" requirement. Additionally, some critics claim that some districts are buying foreign products without seeking the USDA's approval.

In 2015, an investigation by the Sacramento Bee found that Sacramento schools were serving canned peaches, pears, and apple sauce from China.  In fall 2016, Bella Vista Elementary school in Shasta County, California potentially exposed its students to Hepatitis A from frozen Egyptian strawberries that were voluntarily recalled by their manufacturer. The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives further notes that examinations of data by several industry groups have found that 50-60 percent of fish served in U.S. schools is caught on Russian ships and processed in China, 81 percent of apple juice served in schools in 2014 was imported, and that Chinese canned peaches are served to students in 26 states, including major domestic producer states such as California and Georgia.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Steve Debenport / iStock)

AKA

American Food for American Schools Act of 2019

Official Title

To amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to require a school food authority to make publicly available any waiver of the Buy American requirement, and for other purposes.

    I strongly support this bill. There are children in the US whose only well rounded food is when they receive lunch at school, (not too long ago breakfast as well). If the schools can provide fresh food that is better, (either because it’s a better quality or better price), our children deserve them. As all Americans, at times certain foods are recalled. These fresh foods can be from other countries AND foods from the US. Because this administration has made it part of their platform to diminish the roles and personnel at the FDA and EPA, the FDA must be allowed to address those issues as quickly and proficiently as possible.
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    I am not sure what they consider foreign foods. Most of our fresh vegetables come from Mexico and below all winter long. This Bill makes no sense.
    Like (71)
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    And what works even better is growing organic vegetables on the site of the school by the children. local, sustainable, and organic foods are win win. Transporting foods great distances from other countries after processing them to death is not useful. I strongly question whether our factory farming is producing the healthiest food on the planet. If it is, we are in worse trouble than we imagined. This would be the tiniest first step in addressing the problem of sickening our own children with health destroying processed poisoned food.
    Like (54)
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    Ever hear of seasonality? This is foolish and short sighted. What are we going to feed the kids in the winter? Frozen pizza? The USA doesn’t produce fresh food year round. Dumb dumb dumb.
    Like (46)
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    Looks like we are adding more paperwork to an existing process.
    Like (26)
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    Support American farmers. Buy America.
    Like (21)
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    American farmers are in the midst of the worst national crisis in history. They need support now more than ever.
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    The federal government has no damn business having anything to do with education at any level. The Dept of Education is unconstitutional and should be completely eliminated along with every single federal program and every single dollar that goes with them. When the Dept of Education was created (unconstitutionally) America was number one in the world in education, now we're not even top 25. If you don't agree with the Constitutional argument then how about this... ITS NOT WORKING!! Government involvement in education is destroying education! Leave it to the states or better yet the individual communities to decide what their education system needs.
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    Why are we buying foreign food for our school lunch program, that’s nuts. Only American grown food must be used, it’s not only safer, more nutritious but good for our farmers and our economy. America first. #MAGA
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    Get the government out of our schools.
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    Much of our fruits and vegetables come from south of our border. If schools are required to buy US produce only we are going to pay a lot more money to get out out of season fresh foods from CA and FL only. And, I suspect we have trade deals in place that are contrary to this idea. This bill sounds good but I don’t think it will work well in practice.
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    While I appreciate the intent of this bill, I think we are putting too tight of a leash on school food authorities. Food can be contaminated whether it comes from foreign countries or right here in the U.S. You also don’t need to buy domestically in order to get fresh produce. Instead, we need to be focusing on improving the amount of healthy lunches that our children consume and getting rid of a lot of the processed crap.
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    Yes, Please support The United States first. Also, buy Organic, Non-GMO first.
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    Should local school districts make purchases from local suppliers? Emphatically Yes, but Each school district should be making that decision, not the United States Congress. Allow local districts the freedom to make the choices that work best for them.
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    What about truly local, organic, community gardens providing the produce? In tandem with students sharing in the raising the crops? Without the transportation costs in money and pollution?
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    Why does the government come up with continuous new bills to vote on? It seems there is a constant flow of voting taking place. We need less government involvement!! More funding and decision making needs to take place at the state level.. this is a state level choice and sounds like a money waster. This is how it works, we import and export products. I don’t need the schools emailing me and posting on their website that our school strawberries came from Mexico. The ones I bought in the store probably did to! Stop wasting taxpayers money with these bills!! If parents don’t like it, send a lunch from home.
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    We don’t need foreign food for our American children to save a few bucks
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    Funny how California is seeking a way to make it more difficult to buy products from foreign countries. I didn’t know California had a year round growing season. Sounds like they are protecting their own interests in the name of a more quality product. This is a global economy. I agree with buy America first but the produce from Mexico and Chile is as safe as American grown. Beef from Brazil and Argentina is as safe as American beef but considerably less expensive. So let’s not go thinking this is necessary to keep kids safe from “dirty” foreign products. This is protection for the corporate farms in California. Once again it’s profits before people.
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    Most of the food come from Mexico, central America and South America in the fall and winter months?
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    Get the federal government out of education
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