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California's school nutrition programs must buy domestic products under new law

The Buy American Food Act (BAFA) will go into effect starting in 2024 and require schools to purchase American-made food.
A farm in California
Photo: Shutterstock

California schools that receive federal funding will soon be required to purchase American-made food products under a new bill signed into law this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Buy American Food Act (BAFA) will go into effect starting in 2024 and compel schools to include a requirement in their bids and contracts that purchased agriculture food products must be grown, packed or processed domestically. Some exceptions will be allowed based on the cost and quality of nondomestic products versus their domestic counterparts, as well as for "local educational agencies" receiving less than $1 million in federal meal reimbursements annually.

California was one of the first states to include funding in its budget to provide universal free meals to all students in the state. In a letter to the California State Senate, Gov. Newsom warned that BAFA “may result in additional costs beyond the funding for universal access to subsidized school meals provided in the budget” and that requests for additional funding to implement BAFA “will need to be reviewed and included in the annual budget process.”

It also remains to be seen how the new law will impact schools’ access to products. Currently, school nutrition operators throughout the country are continuing to facing supply chain shortages. In a FoodService Director survey of K-12 operators earlier this year, 85% of respondents said they’re having a tough time sourcing products, while a report by the School Nutrition Association released over the summer revealed that supply chain issues remained a struggle as operators headed into this school year.

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