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New bill aims to put more local food in N.H. school cafeterias

A photo of Rep. Alexis Simpson speaking in front of a fridge filled with milk, eggs, and other groceries. Simpson wears a green jacket.
Peter Biello
Rep. Alexis Simpson speaks at the Fresh Start Farms Food Hub in Manchester, N.H. at an event promoting the Local Food for Local Schools bill.

A group of state lawmakers has crafted legislation that aims to provide more incentives for New Hampshire schools to use locally grown food in their cafeterias.

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The Local Food for Local Schools Program bill would reimburse schools one dollar for every three spent on food grown in New Hampshire, up to $1,200 dollars.

The bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Alexis Simpson of Exeter (D), says schools receive federal money from the USDA on a per-meal basis.

"That's the money that we're encouraging schools to make decisions about," she said. "We're encouraging local schools to make the decision to direct some of that money to local food."

Simpson says local food is often more nutritious and buying more from New Hampshire farms would help mitigate the impact of supply chain disruptions.

Under the bill, food from elsewhere in New England would be reimbursed at a lower rate.

One of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Megan Murray of Amherst (D), says when schools build relationships with local farms through this program, there's a good chance educational opportunities will emerge.

"This bill has the opportunity to present natural connections to geography, farming, history, seasonality, you name it," Murray said.