The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee issued a favorable report on H. 4200 on March 28.
The next step is for the bill to be heard on the House floor.
If passed by the Legislature, it would require the S.C. Department of Agriculture to create and maintain a program to encourage South Carolina schools to “serve locally grown, minimally processed farm food,” according to the bill.
Currently, there is a similar pilot program operating in 52 schools around the state. Under the program, at least two South Carolina products are served in participating schools’ cafeterias each month, according to the state Agriculture Department.
Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Richland, initially questioned how Fresh on the Campus could be implemented without costing South Carolina schools more money. He was told program officials have been able to get prices for local produce down to the level school districts were paying for food shipped by large producers from other parts of the country.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Horry, is purported to have many benefits beyond helping school children develop healthier eating habits.
According to the proposed legislation, it would:
- Strengthen local economies by keeping money within their area;
- Create jobs;
- Open a substantial new market for farmers; and
- Provide beginning farmers with a consistent and secure customer base.
There is no appropriated state funding associated with the legislation, and participation by schools in the program would be voluntary.
The program is a partnership among the Agriculture Department, the S.C. Department of Education, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and Clemson University.
Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022 ext. 110, or email@example.com.