Bringing American food to American schools


American tax dollars should support American jobs and American producers. That’s why Buy America rules are so important.

And that principle should apply to more than just manufacturing. Our schools are a major purchaser of food products. The food our kids receive at school should be American-produced food, that supports American jobs in our communities.

That’s why I introduced the bipartisan American Food for American Schools Act with Senator Mike Braun, a Republican of Indiana. It would require schools to buy American products for ALL in-school meals.

Right now, we have basic Buy America rules for school lunches. But they only apply to lunches, not breakfast or summer meals or all the other ways kids get food in school. And it’s too easy for school systems to get waivers to bring in foreign food.

There’s no reason for Ohio school districts to serve students foreign produce when they could get fresh fruits and vegetables from Ohio farmers. There’s no reason for schools to buy food products from overseas, when union bakers and confectioners and other workers make bread and snacks and canned foods in Ohio.

Canned produce and juice from China have been a particular problem. Schools will buy things like apple juice and canned peaches that are made in China, with Chinese apples and Chinese peaches.

We know schools could get those products from the U.S.

Our bill would also strengthen rules on waivers and increase transparency, requiring USDA to publish an online listing of waivers that have been granted allowing schools to bring in foreign products. That will not only let parents know when their children are being given foreign food – it will also help farmers and producers know where there may be opportunities to sell their products, and seek out districts that need affordable, domestic food.

As we work on the Farm Bill this year, empowering farmers and producers to sell more in Ohio is one of our big priorities – and this will be part of that effort.

American tax dollars should support American products, whether that’s iron and steel, or apple juice.

Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.

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