Healthy Eats for Students & Economic Growth for Alabama Farmers

By Clyde Chambliss

 The beginning of the school year is an energizing and sometimes challenging time for families, teachers, and students. My wife and I have three children, and I know how excited my kids always are for the first day of school.

This past spring, I had the opportunity to work across the aisle in the Legislature with Representative Elaine Beech to pass a law that makes it easier for Alabama farmers to sell their produce to school cafeterias. Every year, the Alabama school system receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government via the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program. The law that I sponsored specifies that the State Department of Education may use federal money to buy fruits and vegetables directly from local farmers, which will expand the menu of healthy food options available in school cafeterias and provide an additional selling market for Alabama farmers.

Indeed, last year, even before it was clarified that federal money could be used to purchase from local farms, the Alabama Farm-to-School program had a $2.3 million impact on the state economy. Now that schools can also use federal money to purchase produce from local farms, we should be able to keep even more taxpayer dollars in-state.

The primary goal of K-12 education is to develop the minds and hearts of our young people. We want our students to master the fundamentals of science, history, math, civics, and the English language, and to learn what true wisdom is. In a democratic republic, the education our young people receive will help determine the future health of our democracy.

So certainly, academics should have pre-eminence in our schools. But since our students spend anywhere between 35 and 45 hours per week at school, and many students will eat more than one meal in school cafeterias, it is also important to continually identify ways to improve the quality of food served in our school cafeterias. At 35%, Alabama has the second highest total rate of obesity in the nation, and our state ranks eleventh and ninth in obesity rates for 10-17 year-olds and high school students, respectively. Now, I’m no health scold: as my wife could tell you, I enjoy a big slice of homemade pecan pie as much as the next person. But I think we can all agree that expanding the number of fruits and vegetables available in our school cafeterias is a smart move.

I wish all of our local teachers and students a successful school year. If I can be of service to any teacher or administrator in my district, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office at 334-247-7872 or send me an email at [email protected]

Republican Clyde Chambliss represents all or parts of Autauga, Elmore, Chilton, Coosa, and Tallapoosa counties in the Alabama Senate. Follow him on Twitter for the latest legislative updates: @Clyde_Chambliss