SECTION 1. Chapter 111 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 223, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, the following section:-
Section 223A. Notwithstanding section 223, a public elementary or secondary school may apply for and be granted a waiver from compliance with 105 CMR 225.000 et seq. or any other school nutrition regulations promulgated pursuant to section 223 by the department, in collaboration with the department of elementary and secondary education.
The department of elementary and secondary education, in collaboration with the department of public health, shall establish criteria and procedures for determining whether applicants may be granted the waiver; provided, however, no waiver shall be granted unless the applicant shows compelling circumstances. Compelling circumstances shall include circumstances where:
(i) an applicant is able to show that a waiver will allow more flexibility with their menu planning to allow greater creativity within the meals offered to their student population;
(ii) an applicant is able to show that a waiver will allow healthier food preparation; or
(iii) an applicant is able to show that a waiver will allow more techniques to foster healthy eating within their student population.
A waiver granted under this section may be a waiver from all nutritional restrictions set forth in 105 CMR 225.000 et seq. or may be limited to certain nutritional standards set forth therein, including but not limited to grain restrictions, fats restrictions, or calories restrictions.
The department of elementary and secondary education shall develop and furnish the application form required for a waiver pursuant to this section.
SECTION 2. There shall be a pilot program for public elementary and secondary schools with the purpose of updating school kitchens for fresh food preparation and storage. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, referred to in this section as the Authority, in collaboration with the department of elementary and secondary education, shall develop a 3-year pilot program for up to 1 school per calendar year.
Eligible schools electing to participate in the pilot program shall notify the Authority through an application procedure established by the Authority, on or before January 31 of each calendar year during the pilot program.
After the initial application, the Authority may determine the best candidates for the pilot program using the following criteria:
(i) the scope of renovations needed to fully update the kitchen to prepare fresh food;
(ii) the school’s capacity to implement such measures;
(iii) the school’s plans on how best to use a newly renovated space with the additional features to allow for fresh food preparation; and
(iv) any additional criteria as established by the Authority.
Schools electing to participate shall be eligible for financial support of up to 70 per cent of the cost for updating the kitchen, as determined by the Authority, using criteria established pursuant to this section.
The Authority shall develop guidelines for a quarterly review of the progress being made by each pilot school kitchen. Strategies shall be researched to fully utilize the kitchens space to prepare and store fresh and nutritious food for students.
The participating schools shall prepare and submit an annual report during each year renovation is taking place and 3 years thereafter analyzing the implementation and efficacy of the pilot program to determine evidence-based standards for school kitchens to adhere to across school districts in the commonwealth. The schools shall submit such annual report to the joint committee on education and the house and senate committees on ways and means on or before September 1 of each year such report is required.
SECTION 3: (a) There shall be a 4-year pilot program within the department of public health, in conjunction with the department of elementary and secondary education and the department of agriculture, to create a farm-to-school community challenge which aims to promote locally grown food as well as nutritious school meals with the purpose of providing evidence that communities gain positive changes in the eating habits of children and adolescents.
The farm-to-school pilot program aims to improve access to local foods in eligible schools; increase the supply of fresh, locally grown farm products served for meals and snacks in in public elementary and secondary schools and incorporates better education and engagement around healthy food choices. The program shall be implemented in a collaborative manner that recognizes the specific expertise of the agencies and makes effective use of that expertise to more efficiently implement a successful program.
(b) The pilot program shall include a farm-to-school grant program. The program shall be administered by the department of elementary and secondary education and shall have the following purposes:-(i) Improve the health and nutrition of school children and adolescents in the commonwealth by increasing their consumption of fresh farm commodities, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, as appropriate. (ii) Conduct a needs assessment and menu audit to determine the next steps to creating a farm to school plan.(iii) Increase opportunities for farmers in the commonwealth to market directly to local schools and school districts.(iii) Provide information and technical assistance to schools and school districts, food service personnel, farmers, and produce distributors and processors regarding the demand for and the availability of farm products in the commonwealth, with an emphasis on locally and regionally grown products.(iv) Identify and reduce barriers in order to successfully implement farm-to-school programs.(v) Promote successful models and strategies for local farm-to-school programs to school districts, food service personnel, farmers, distributors, and processors.(vi) Identify local food vendors and products that can be obtained by the participating school and introduced into the school menu. (vii) Provide school districts with the opportunity to develop a long-term strategy that supports locally sourced products, interactive menu planning, and an educational framework to provide increased learning opportunities to students in order for them to make informed and healthier food choices. (viii) Provide a framework for sustained state funding for school districts who voluntarily participate in the farm-to-school program.(ix) Provide for accountability to ensure the efficient and effective implementation of the farm-to-school program in participating schools.
(c) Any school participating in the pilot program, including the grant program, shall adhere to the following requirements:-(i) Schools selected to participate in the pilot program shall keep records of the fruits and vegetables received under the pilot project in such manner and form as requested by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education; (ii) Each participant shall submit to the commissioner of elementary and secondary education a report on the success of the pilot project including information on: (a) the quantity and cost of each type of fruit and vegetable received under the pilot project; and (b) the benefit provided by those procurements in conducting school food service in the school, including meeting school meal requirements;(iii) A record of each vendor used; (iv) A record of menu changes that were affected by the fresh food procurement and the pilot program;(v) Changes to the wellness policy that occurred as a direct effect of the changes in fresh food availability at the participating school.
(vi) Any additional requirements promulgated by the commissioner of elementary and secondary education.
(d) The participating schools shall prepare and submit an annual report analyzing the implementation of the pilot program to determine evidence-based standards for schools to adhere to across the commonwealth. The schools shall submit such annual report to the joint committee on education and the house and senate committees on ways and means on or before September 1 of each pilot year. Participating schools must meet the challenges required pursuant to this section by January 1, 2020.
(e) (1) The department of elementary and secondary education, the department of agricultural resources and the department of public health shall collaborate with each other to establish a farm-to-school interagency task force to coordinate and advance the work of the pilot program. The task force shall consist of 13 members to be appointed by the governor, 2 of whom shall be nominated by the commissioner of the department of elementary and secondary education, 2 of whom shall be nominated by the commissioner of agricultural resources, 2 of whom shall be nominated by the commissioner of public health, 1 shall be a representative of a school district, 1 shall be a representative from the food service industry, 1 shall be a farmer in the commonwealth, 1 shall be a food distributor in the commonwealth, 1 shall be a food processor in the commonwealth, 1 shall be a representative from an agricultural organization with a level of expertise in farm-to-school programs and 1 shall be a representative from a nonprofit organization with expertise in community food security.
(2) The task force shall:
(i) Identify and promote the critical components of individual farm-to-school programs and advise the department of elementary and secondary education on needed actions and effective strategies to implement the program.
(ii) Consider all of the following issues, in addition to any others it deems necessary:
(A) packing and grading standards;
(B) food safety;
(C) ensuring timely payments to farmers participating in farm-to-school programs;
(D) informing schools of the availability of farm products;
(E) the adequacy of staffing, storage, and preparation equipment necessary to operate a farm-to-school program; and
(F) promoting curriculum that links farm-to-school program activities to existing state academic content standards.
SECTION 4. Section 223A of chapter 111 of the General Laws shall take effect July 1, 2017; provided, however, that the procedure and application for waiver established by the department of elementary and secondary education thereunder shall be implemented before the start of the 2017 school year.
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