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N.Y. Apple says schools may now bid for state-grown fruit

Schools in New York state will be able to specify state-grown apples when placing bids for school lunch programs, the New York Apple Association has announced.

The association said recently that USDA came out with a final ruling pertaining to a 2008 farm bill provision which allows schools to put a geographical preference specification on school bids and in their purchasing procedures.

The rule allows food service officials to note a preference for “New York-grown” or grown within a certain number of miles away from their school in their bid descriptions. Bid specifications can also be allowed to preference “Eastern Grown" or “Northeast.”

The new rules also allow schools to offer a premium on local apples to attract bids, the apple association said.

Until the 2008 farm bill included a provision allowing geographic criteria, federal rules had forbidden that designation on the grounds that it would raise costs. The New York Apple Association said that under the old rules, “typically winning bids would come from states or continents that have huge surpluses of sub-par apples that would be ‘unloaded’ onto the school lunch market,” although rules for purchasing school lunch foods with federal dollars did require that the foods be from the United States.

“We encourage school food service managers to take advantage of this change in the law and buy our fresh, local apples for the enjoyment and good health of their students," Allen said, noting that local tax dollars were also involved in the purchases.