COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The Child Food and Nutrition Services Study Committee convened Tuesday to discuss the future of South Carolina’s nutrition program.
One of the central topics of discussion during this meeting was whether the responsibility of school nutrition programs should be transferred to the state Department of Agriculture from the state Department of Education.
Representative Jermaine Johnson (D-Richland) raised concerns about the emphasis shifting from children’s well-being to agricultural growth if such a change were implemented.
Commissioner Hugh Weathers reassured lawmakers that the primary focus would remain on the children’s nutritional needs.
He explained that the move could facilitate a closer integration of education and food support, benefitting both sectors.
Another topic the panel discussed was the Local Foods for School Program. This federal initiative aims to bridge the gap between local farmers and schools by facilitating the movement of fresh, locally sourced food into South Carolina’s educational institutions.
According to Weathers, the program has already led to an increase in the consumption of locally grown food by South Carolina students. Weathers believes that further investments in agribusiness and food processing could significantly boost the use of local products in schools.
Commissioner Weathers acknowledged the challenges faced by farmers when doing business with schools. He explained that there is often a perception among farmers that the margins in school food contracts are too thin to be profitable.
Weathers said that it’s essential to show farmers that these partnerships can be mutually beneficial.
The committee plans to meet next month to start working on recommendations. They are expected to finish up their work by January 2024.