The measure to give in-state vendors preference over out-of-state vendors when competing for State Government contracts which became law when the General Assembly overrode Governor Sanford’s veto a week ago will not only help businesses in the state, it will also aid the state’s farmers and agri-business persons.State Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers says the wording in the measure may also aid in the passage of the “Farm to School Program Act” during the next legislative session. The bill remained in committee when the legislative session ended. Weathers says the proposed program would link schools with South Carolina farms in order to provide schools with fresh fruits and vegetables to include in school meals and snacks. Weathers says the measure would not only provide more business opportunities for farmers, it would also help children develop healthy eating habits.
“Anderson County has been very energetic about getting farmers a greater opportunity to get their products into the school system. The legislation was introduced by a member from Anderson County with the idea that if it can happen statewide with a little more work we can get the fresh vegetables into the school system and make it healthier for the younger kids especially.”
The legislation was introduced by Anderson County Representative Dan Cooper. The proposal also calls for the integration of Nutrition and Agriculture education into school curricula by providing hands-on learning opportunities for students such as farm visits, cooking demonstrations, and school gardening programs.
Weathers envisions the proposed program as a great opportunity for the agriculture and education communities to work hand and hand in improving the overall education of youngsters in South Carolina through nutrition and learning.
“The combination of having that preference language and having the strength behind “Farm to School” which hopefully can pass next year, then we would have our marching orders to be a little more aggressive in working with the Department of Education.”
According to the language in the bill, a successful Farm to School Program will require the resources, expertise, and collaboration of a number of state agencies including the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Environmental Control.