Local Foods for Local Schools
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Local Produce Fund Guidance
When funds are available payments will be made as first received, first paid. There is often very little money, but we hope to receive more money in the future.
This guidance contains three parts of importance:
20-A §6602. SCHOOL FOOD SERVICE PROGRAMS
12. Local Product Fund:
Established within the Department of Education the local product fund is authorized to receive revenue from public and private sources. The fund must be held separate and apart from all other money, funds and accounts. Any balance remaining in the fund at the end of the fiscal year must be carried forward to the next fiscal year.
The fund must be used to match $1 for every $3 that a school administrative unit pays for local product or minimally processed foods purchased directly from a Maine producer or producers cooperative within the State, to a maximum state contribution of $1,000. At the end of the fiscal year, the school administrative unit may provide the department with receipts documenting purchases pursuant to this subsection during that year.
For purposes of this subsection, "minimally processed" means only the washing, cleaning, trimming, drying, sorting and packaging of food items or a combination of those activities. Reimbursement or partial reimbursement to school administrative units may only be made up to the amount available in the fund. Failure to reimburse does not constitute an obligation on behalf of the State to a school administrative unit.
Local Product Fund Simple Guidelines:
- Cannot be for product offered through the FFVP
- Maine product must be maintained from Maine producer or producers cooperative within the State
- Minimally processed as defined in law
- Receipts are paid first in first out, until money is gone
- Requests will be processed on the same time frame as the monthly claim form
- Receipts do not have to be originals
- Receipts can be sent via fax, electronically or US mail to ATTN: Nanci Stitt-Kittredge
- For product purchases no earlier than 1/1/2012, not for prior purchases
- Districts have a maximum of $1000 per year
- Cover note must be attached to refund request
- DOE reserves the right to decline or prorate receipts to provide support to as many districts as reasonably possible
- The same time frame and process of the claim forms
- To be reported under “other income” on claim form
- Nanci will notify districts when funds are no longer available
Geographic Preference and Buying Local
Geographic preference does not mean that a decision can be made to purchase locally. There are requirements that must be followed. Geographic preference is a method to evaluate bids/quotes - it is not the sole indicator. Schools still must shop for the product based on their requirements and selection process. This does not mean you must take the lowest quote, but the quote that fits the scoring/evaluation method. Price may be 50% of determining factor and local purchase may be 50% of the determining factor. Local or State laws can not mandate the amount of food purchased locally.
The NSLP MUST purchase following the Federal procurement regulations/guidance.
Several Districts are already buying local. There is a lot of confusion on the buying local and using geographic preference. This is not allowed under the current regulations. The Harrison Institute Report does not agree with USDA Food and Nutrition Services interpretation of the regulation. The FNS letter is pretty clear.
School Gardens and Product Usage
Product from school gardens can not be processed and then sold/transferred to the food service program. This includes canning, preserving, etc. Product can be washed, cut, frozen. Drying fruit would be considered processing and must be licensed to be done in a commercial kitchen. Home processing of this type is not allowed for School Food Service Department use.
Maine Harvest Lunch
- Establish contacts/relationships with Maine producers for future days.
This could be an ongoing partnership with Maine producers. It would provide a good source of food and an outlet for the Maine producer’s product.
- Make students aware of Maine products on an ongoing basis.
Some students think green beans come from a can. Actual knowledge that a product is from a bush, tree or root may not be understood. They may not be aware what is actually produced in Maine. How the food is prepared or eaten is part of the education. Feeding the student Maine products also educates the parent about Maine products.
- Support your community/ local producers.
With all the talk about consolidation and schools fearing losing local control, what better way to demonstrate local support and local control of the food service department? Buy locally.
- Do not forget about the fishing industry and all the products available.
- REMEMBER that the cafeteria/dining room is the biggest classroom in the school!
Why Promote Maine Products?
- Estimated importing food from out of state typically requires 17 times more petroleum compared to purchasing locally
- Product is fresher
- Better taste
- Fresh products mean maximum nutrient value
- Supports local business and taxes
- Considered an important method to address childhood obesity
- Education about products
- Not usually processed therefore no added salt or sugars
- Where the product was grown is known
- Advertises local businesses
- Increases physical activities
Obstacles to Buying Maine Products
Cost: Yes it may cost more. Keep in mind competitively shop when possible. Look at yields and quality of fresh product what are you throwing out on product purchased from your supplier and what are you saving on local products. This year you can give geographic preference in your purchasing. Trade off acknowledge producer advertise for them.
Delivery: there have been several ideas on this issue. Bottom line; think out of the box, it is a community event. There is always the good old pick it up. Other options include district buses, district mail run, teachers that go between schools and volunteers
Quantity: Get what you can use what you have. You could do only one school at a time. Supplement local and other. Plan in advance and get the provider to agree ahead of time.
Questions About Maine Harvest Lunch
When did it start?
The Maine Harvest Lunch was resurrected in School Year 2005 as a statewide event. It was dropped in the late 90s when budget cuts eliminated 50% of the state office Child Nutrition staff.
Can a School buy locally and not from a major from a supplier?
YES, support your community and feed students good quality products.
Can a School use donations from local farmers or others?
YES, and say "thank You" for the support to the food service program.
Where are the farms are located?
People are surprised by how many small farms are in Maine. Look around, go to farmers market, or contact the Department of Agriculture.
Does the farm need to be inspected?
NO, inspection is not required. The school must know where the product came from, basically you should use common sense.
Can I use the school garden even though it is unattended?
YES commercial fields are not guarded no matter what size. Absolutely use the fresh product from the school gardens
What if I get only 50% of the product I need?
Use what you can where you can.
Will the product be in usable state?
Maybe not. Small farmers may not have all the machinery needed to prepare and process products. It may take some skill and labor. The school may not have the staff to complete the task. Many schools recruited student and community volunteers to assist in Harvest Lunch preparations.
What About the Classroom and Teaching Staff?
Maine Agriculture in the Classroom has nice lesson called "Lunchtime Favorites" using a Venn Diagram that can be used for K - 12 with increasing complexity. It traces the source of foods to plant, animal or other (mineral, fungus, fermented products, yeast, etc.) that is available to teachers.
Willie Sawyer Grenier
Maine Agriculture in the Classroom Assn.
28 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333
(207) 287-5522, Fax 287-7548
Farm to School Resources:
Maine Agency Contact Information:
Maine DOE Child Nutrition Walter Beesley
Maine DOE CTE Doug Robertson
Maine Department of Agriculture Jon Harker
Maine Department of Marine Resources John Lewis
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