Early childhood education programs would be included in Nebraska’s farm-to-school program under a bill considered January 18 by the Education Committee.
Lawmakers created the program in 2021 with the passage of a bill sponsored by Plymouth Senator Tom Brandt requiring the state Department of Education to administer a program to help provide locally grown food and minimally processed to elementary and high school students in Nebraska.
Brandt introduced LB758 this session to expand the law to include early childhood education programs, which he says were inadvertently left out of the original proposal.
“Unfortunately, the language we adopted last year was too restrictive and help could only be offered to primary and secondary schools,” Brandt said. “LB758 corrects this oversight.”
Sara Smith, a farm-to-school specialist with the state Department of Education, testified in support of the bill. A 2017 study found that only 20% of Nebraska’s early childhood programs were engaged in farm-to-school activities, she said, but 67% of providers indicated an interest in the programs. studies that would help them do so.
“It is possible to have a lifelong impact on our communities by leveraging Farm to School and Farm to Preschool as a pathway to advancing equity [involving] access to food and security,” said Smith. “Including these opportunities for our littlest eaters is key.”
Testifying in support of LB758 on behalf of Nebraska Cattlemen and six other agricultural organizations, Marcus Urban of Leigh said the bill would strengthen the reach and impact of agricultural producers on education in Nebraska.
“The farm-to-school curriculum opportunities are endless,” Marcus said. “When you are able to make a connection between the food a student eats and the people who grow it, you can make connections beyond the walls of the school classroom.”
Sara Howard of First Five Nebraska was also in support. Agricultural producers in some rural areas of the state have expressed interest in donating food to early childhood programs, she said, but suppliers are unsure whether they can accept such assistance under of current law. LB758 would provide the necessary clarity, Howard said.
No one testified against the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.