CHAPTER 14. California Organic-to-School Pilot Program
The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Under the federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, certified organic farmers are required to produce food without most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They are also required to “maintain or improve” soil.
(b) Healthy soils lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, healthy soils improve crop yields, drought and flood tolerance, and air and water quality. Soil building practices enhance biodiversity, conserve natural resources, and contribute other public and environmental health benefits.
(c) California’s Healthy Soils Program recognizes the broad benefits of soil health and promotes stewardship of healthy soils. Organic farmers cultivate healthy soil using practices supported by the California Healthy Soils Program, including crop rotation, cover crops, and application of soil builders like compost.
(d) As recognized in the California Organic Food and Farming Act, California remains the “Capital of Organic Agriculture” in the United States. In 2017, organic sales in the United States totaled nearly $50 billion, and California organic agricultural commodities totaled $2.9 billion. In 2016, California was the source of 38 percent of the nation’s organic farm sales.
(e) California grows food for the nation, and more organic produce than any other state, but many low-income communities in California do not have an adequate food supply of their own. Cost and availability issues prevent many of California’s low-income communities from accessing organic food.
(f) School meals can provide a primary source of food and nutrition for millions of low-income California public school students and are a major support for families struggling to make ends meet.
(g) The federal Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables allows schools to form more direct relationships with produce suppliers, including organic producers.
(h) School meals with organic foods offer benefits for health, the environment, and California’s economy by increasing access to organic food for low-income children, decreasing pesticide exposure, increasing climate resilience, and growing the organic market for California farmers.
(a) The California Organic-to-School Pilot Program is hereby created, to be administered by the secretary, through the Office of Farm to Fork.
(b) Through the program, the secretary shall do all of the following:
(1) Work with the State Department of Education to assist school districts that participate in the federal National School Lunch Program or federal School Breakfast Program in accessing California organic food products.
(2) Identify barriers that prevent schools from accessing California organic food products.
(3) Perform other activities necessary to facilitate the success of the program.
(a) The secretary shall expend moneys allocated for the program to provide grants for school districts to purchase California organic food products.
(b) (1) A school district that receives a grant pursuant to the program shall use the grant moneys to purchase California organic food products that are all of the following:
(A) Certified organic, pursuant to the federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C. Sec. 6501 et seq.).
(B) Purchased on or after the date the school district received the moneys for the grant.
(C) Produced in California.
(D) Used in meals that are part of the federal National School Lunch Program or federal School Breakfast Program.
(2) A school district shall use grant moneys awarded pursuant to the program only for school meals, in an amount that equals the lesser of the following:
(A) The amount paid per school meal by the school district to purchase the California organic food products.
(B) Fifteen cents per school meal.
(3) A school district that receives a grant pursuant to the program shall not use the moneys to supplant purchases of food products with federal moneys, but may use the moneys to pay for the difference in cost between California organic food products and food products that are reimbursable with federal moneys.
(c) In making procurement decisions pursuant to this chapter, a school district is encouraged to purchase foods that are all of the following:
(1) From socially disadvantaged farmers.
(2) From producers who offer educational opportunities.
(3) From local producers.
(4) In season based on the local growing region.
(d) The secretary shall consult with the State Department of Education to determine the recipients and amounts of grants awarded under the program. Preference shall be given to school districts that meet any of the following criteria, with greater preference for school districts that meet multiple criteria:
(1) Serve the highest percentage of children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals under the federal National School Lunch Program or federal School Breakfast Program.
(2) Are located in close proximity to agricultural production.
(3) Offer universally free school meals.
(4) Participate in the federal Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables.
(e) The secretary shall award at least five grants under the program.
(f) The secretary shall consult with the State Department of Education to develop guidelines related to the grants awarded under the program.
(a) A school district that receives a grant under the program shall submit a brief report to the secretary that includes all of the following:
(1) The California organic food products purchased.
(2) Names of the farms that supplied the organic food products.
(3) The amount paid per school meal by the school district to purchase the California organic food products.
(4) Student response to the California organic food products.
(5) Any barriers or obstacles the school district encountered in procuring California organic food products.
(b) On or before January 1, 2022, the secretary shall submit a report to the Legislature in compliance with Section 9795 of the Government Code on the outcomes of the program. The secretary shall continue to report annually on the outcomes of the program until all program expenditures have been reported.
(c) The report to the Legislature required by subdivision (b) shall include, but is not limited to, all of the following:
(1) The number of grants awarded.
(2) The amount of funds awarded.
(3) A summary of the information school districts reported pursuant to subdivision (a).
As used in this chapter, the following definitions shall apply:
The implementation of this chapter is contingent on an appropriation being made for its purposes by the Legislature in the annual Budget Act or another statute.
(a) “Program” means the California Organic-to-School Pilot Program created pursuant to this chapter.
(b) “Secretary” means the Secretary of Food and Agriculture.
(c) “Socially disadvantaged farmer” has the same meaning as defined in Section 512.