New law enables school districts to further partnerships with food providers that prioritize the health of students
CHICAGO – Governor JB Pritzker today signed legislation to increase access to healthy food options in schools across the state, providing Illinois children with the well-rounded, nutritious meals necessary to maintaining a healthy learning environment.
"Illinois students deserve healthy, sustainable food options at every turn," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Schools are a haven. They are where our state's children spend most of their time outside of the home-and our schools provide reliable, consistent meals for students, day in and day out. With this legislation, Illinois' schools will be able to serve nutritious food options without having to jump through unnecessary, bureaucratic hoops."
"Improving access to healthy food options in school is essential in our commitment to ensure that our children have what they need to be well and supported as they grow and learn," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "In Illinois, we put children and education first, and we are doing that by providing students the healthy, nourishing, and equitable environments they need to develop to their full potential."
"Local school boards know what food options are best for students in their communities," said State Senator Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago). "Our plan allows schools to contract with providers that share the same set of values as they do."
"Students deserve to receive healthy, high-quality meals that help them grow and learn," said State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria). "For too long, our laws have locked school districts in a race to the bottom for 'lowest bidder full service' contracts that have disproportionately hurt low-income and minority students. I am thankful for the years of advocacy from parents, students and school officials who made today a reality because they wanted to create healthier outcomes for our children."
Under House Bill 4813, food service providers that participate in any of the USDA's child nutrition programs are exempt from contract bidding requirements. This legislation encourages school districts to give preference to contracts that promote the health and well-being of students, source local food products, and value the welfare of animals, allowing Illinois school districts to improve the evaluation process for potential food service vendors. All potential food suppliers are required to submit data to the school district at the time of the bid, to the best of their ability with an annual update during the term of contract if it is awarded.
House Bill 4813 is the administration's latest initiative to increase access to healthy foods for Illinoisans of all ages. Earlier this month, Gov. Pritzker established the Healthy Foods Access Program, which expands access to healthy foods in underserved areas. Under this program, grocery stores, corner stores, farmers' markets, and other small retailers may receive assistance through grants, loans, equipment, or other financial assistance to be awarded on a competitive basis. Additional efforts include public-private partnerships to expand purchasing options for those who receive SNAP benefits, empowering the Illinois Commission to End Hunger to advance the From Food Insecurity to Food Equity: A Roadmap to End Hunger plan, a three-part strategy for connecting residents in need to nutrition assistance programs, and promoting equitable access to food for every Illinoisan.
The law is effective immediately.