Senator Leahy

Senator Leahy: Nutrition in America

The following comments were made by Senator Leahy of Vermont on November 2, 2021, at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing titled “The State of Nutrition in America in 2021.”

Even when I became chairman of the agriculture committee quite a few years ago it was called the Senate agriculture and forestry committee. I changed the name to agriculture, nutrition, and forestry which is what it had been originally. I wanted to bring back the word nutrition for exactly the reasons both of you have said.

“We need to do more than just get food on the table”

When we are the wealthiest nation on earth and we can’t handle our nutrition needs that that’s a national security problem as well as anything else. I see in this pandemic the food insecurities as children are left behind. I’m proud of the efforts we made to meet the need of those struggling in our communities with historic investments in nutrition programs currently including the Build Back Better act – access to school and summer meals for millions of children, but we need to do more than just get the food on the table as you both said, we need to have healthy and nutritious food.

Senator Leahy, Commenting at the Nov 2, 2021 Senate Ag Committee Hearing

Coming from a state like mine I think it’s particularly helpful if it’s grown locally. Unfortunately many cases this is not true we need a coordinated effort from the federal government down to the local level they make sure all Americans have access to nutritious foods but also bolstering regional supply chains so they can best deliver food to these communities particularly in our schools. I’ve looked at some of these statements today, I’m sure we’ll be seeing witnesses today who tell us about how important it is for the health outcomes and dietary habits of children that school meals include healthy locally growing food.

– Senator Patrick Leahy, VT

“Nearly 60% of USDA funding of school programs goes to 15 multinational corporations”

My staff will be here following this, and I will be be sure I will actually read all you said when I get back from my meeting. My state of Vermont has a strong tradition of farmers providing healthier local choices in our supermarkets but even with that, our schools still struggled to include these foods in school lunches.

In fact, nearly 60% of the USDA funding of school program spending goes to 15 multinational corporations not to local producers and these corporations we know have been plagued by supply chain disruptions and have caused food shortages in schools across the country so we need more resilient supply chains. We need lower procurement barriers we have to make it easier for local and small-scale producers to feed their children. So Mr. Chairman I thank your leadership on this issue to work with the USDA there surely more schools had the opportunity to work with local farmers.

All three of us can grow quick list of farmers to be clients to work with them as they have also long championed the farm to school program which strengthens and supports this link between local farmers and students schools are affected and currently underutilized settings for nutrition policy’s and so I’m interested in what might be said about our farm to school can help that so I look forward to hearing from all of you. I’m just so happy you’re doing this and I would state to the witnesses that what I’ve heard Senator Booker said about nutrition here, he says that when the cameras are not on, and the ranking member we’ve talked about this usually in our prayer meetings in the inner sanctum sometimes late in the evening and the need that we have to do this whether we’re parents, we’re grandparents or citizens.

If we don’t get hold of this if we don’t do something about this issue, what are we leaving our children in the next generation? So thank you Mr. chairman I’m so proud of this series thank you very much again.

– Senator Patrick Leahy, VT