U.S. School Food

The Lempert Report
September 08, 2022

Phil: There's a new California bill that limits foreign grown food in public school meals, Sally, what's that about?

Sally: Well, this bill that is advancing in the state legislature really wants these California public schools to buy American. So the deal for the Buy American Food Act is that they have to buy American, unless the price of it is more than 25% lower than it's domestic counterpart. So there are mixed opinions about this. Some people feel that this is going to give American products an opportunity to price gouge. And some people feel like it's not really fair.

Phil: Yeah. And also when we look at the whole school system, most of the school programs are done on bids and very often it's sealed bids. So you don't know what somebody else is offering, but the problem that we've seen in schools, this is way pre-pandemic, is they don't have the infrastructure, the purchasing infrastructure to really buy foods properly. You know, when we worked with Michelle Obama and Sam Cass on the school lunch program, what we found as we visited schools around the nation is there were no kitchens. There were people that were just defrosting food and so on. I think the whole school infrastructure system needs to be fixed. I applaud what California's trying to do. I agree with you. I think that when you have this 25% difference that either it forces certain brands to up their price, or it looks at imports, especially from China, who lowers their price so much that we have to buy their food. And I'm not sure that it makes a lot of sense.