Fla. Agriculture Dept. takes over school food program

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam makes school nutrition a priority

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - With the beginning of the New Year, the state's school food and nutrition program moves to the Florida Department of Education Florida to the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The transfer is the result of a legislative measure, called the Healthy Schools of Healthy Lives Act, passed in the 2011 session.

"This transfer is a first step in transforming the lifelong eating habits of Florida's children," Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said. "I believe we can establish a foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating if we incorporate more wholesome foods, many of which are grown right here in Florida, into the meals kids eat at school."

With responsibility for the program, 45.5 full time employee positions move to the agriculture department's Office of Food, Nutrition and Wellness at the Department.

Putnam appointed Robin Safley, who previously served as a consultant with Capital Health Plan advocating wellness issue and chief of staff at the Department of Education, to serve as director.

In recent months, Putnam visited schools throughout the state to learn about innovative techniques many schools employ to encourage students to choose healthy options. He also met with farmers, processors and distributors to learn about the challenges that lie in the way of directing more locally-grown, fresh foods to Florida's schools.

"Partnerships with key stakeholders in child nutrition are critical to the success of our efforts, Putnam said. "We must bring everyone to the table, including parents, teachers, farmers and health professionals, to help change the way our children eat."

On Dec. 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will allocate an additional $2.5 million to Florida to help school food authorities improve the quality of school meals provided to children and come into compliance with new meal patterns and nutrient standards, which are anticipated to be released in January and will be effective for the 2012-2013 school year.

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