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Home-based day care could get farm-fresh food under proposal to expand ag program

Locally sourced food should be available to children wherever they eat. That’s the principle behind proposed legislation that would expand the Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School program.

Sponsored by Rep. Matt Norris (DFL-Blaine), HF4163as amended, would make home-based child care programs eligible for grants to purchase food from local farmers or equipment such as vacuum sealers to make local purchases easier. It was laid over Tuesday by the House Agriculture Finance and Policy Committee.

“This is a win for farmers and a win for our youngest learners, getting them off to a strong, healthy start,” Norris said.

Previously open to K-12 institutions, a 2023 law expanded the Farm to School program to early child care centers. Norris said his bill would match the intent of that legislation and has no new funding attached.

Supporters argue that expanding eligible institutions is especially important in Greater Minnesota, where more children are in home-based day care settings.

“We want all our littlest kiddos to have access to fresh, local food,” said Erin McKee, community food services program director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. She added that small children get 70% their nutrition intake in their early care settings. 

There is proven demand for the program as evidenced by more than 350 home-based day cares that applied for a grant in a 2022 Farm to Early Care pilot program.

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