McKEONBURZICHELLIQUIJANO ‘JERSEY FRESH FARM TO SCHOOL WEEK’ MEASURE SIGNED INTO LAW
(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly Environment Chairman John F. McKeon, Assembly members John J. Burzichelli and Annette Quijano to declare a ‘Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week’ was signed into law on Friday.
Under the measure (A-2854), events will be planned in schools throughout the state for a week in September to promote the value and importance of New Jersey’s agriculture and fresh farm food for children.
“New Jersey has a rich range of local produce and is one of the nation’s top-ten producers of fruits and vegetables varying from blueberries, peaches and bell peppers to tomatoes, cucumbers and cranberries,” McKeon (D-Essex) said.
“Educating our children about our state’s diverse and delicious agricultural fare and the nutritious value of local and safe ‘Jersey Fresh’ produce, will help them cultivate healthier food choices and make them aware of the importance of supporting local farmers,” he added.
The measure also calls for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to create a bidding matrix that will encourage schools to purchase ‘Jersey Fresh’ by providing price preferentials for local agricultural and farm products.
“By encouraging our schools to purchase local fare, we will be helping farmers stay on their land and providing a boost to New Jersey’s estimated $1.12 billion agricultural industry,” Burzichelli (D-SalemCumberlandGloucester) said. “We will also be helping tens of thousands of New Jersey residents whose livelihoods depend on the more than 10,300 farms in our state.”
“As we grow our state’s economy on the path to economic recovery, ‘Jersey Fresh’ needs to continue to be an important focus,” Quijano (D-Union) said. “The “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week” measure will harvest growing support for our farming community by encouraging schools to purchase local fare while promoting healthier food choices for our children.”
Studies show a very high return on the investment in promoting ‘Jersey Fresh.’ According to a Rutgers University report, the $1.1 million spent in 2000 to promote local fare had an economic impact of $63.2 million. This included increased cash receipts of $36.6 million for fruits and vegetables and an additional $26.6 million in economic activity. It also generated an increase in state and local tax revenue by $2.2 million for that year.
The “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week” will enhance the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s estimated $2.5 million Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program to help raise the awareness of ‘Jersey Fresh’ among school students and encourage them to sample and eat the healthy and diverse products produced in the state’s farms.
The state Agriculture Department has selected 101 schools in 15 counties to participate in the program for the school calendar year 2010 to 2011 that will involve an estimated 49,250 students.
McKeon welcomed this initiative by the federal government and also commended the state Department of Agriculture headed by Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher for the department’s innovative and aggressive programs to promote ‘Jersey Fresh.’
“From the partnership with the Trenton Marriott which has committed to serving local fare in its restaurant to a strategic alliance with the Somerset Medical Center that will purchase ‘Jersey Fresh’ for the one million meals it serves every year, the department has done a great job in promoting our state’s produce,” McKeon said.
Somerset Medical Center is the first hospital in the nation to team up with a state agricultural department’s farm products branding program.
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