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Congresswoman Suzan DelBene

Representing the 1st District of Washington

DelBene Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Put U.S. Seafood in School Lunches

Feb 25, 2016
Press Release
The bill would strengthen the Buy American provision of the National School Lunch program so students receive more nutritious seafood.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) today introduced bipartisan legislation to require fish products purchased for federally subsidized school lunches be domestically harvested.

“The Pacific Northwest produces some of the world’s best and healthiest seafood. We should be supporting our local industries, especially when they are producing a superior product for our nation’s children,” DelBene said. “I want to ensure school district funds stretch as far as possible, but not at the expense of child nutrition. This bipartisan bill is not only good for our fishermen, but also our children, who will be receiving more nutritious fish as a result.”

Current law has unfortunately resulted in fish products caught and processed in foreign countries being included in school lunches at the expense of fish caught in America. For example, 60 percent of the pollock served in the school lunch program comes from Russia and is often processed in China because the Buy American requirement is only “to the maximum extent practicable.” This allows cheaper, but less nutritious Russian pollock to replace Alaska pollock. The bill would strengthen the Buy American provision in the National School Lunch program by stating “without exception” that federally subsided school lunches should use domestically sourced fish, or fish from a U.S. flagged vessel in the case of tuna.

DelBene serves on the House Agriculture Committee, which has part jurisdiction over the National School Lunch program. Reps. Don Young (R-AK), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Denny Heck (D-WA) joined DelBene in introducing H.R. 4617, which has a companion measure (S. 2529) in the Senate from Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

“We appreciate Congresswoman DelBene and her House colleagues' continued support for the region's seafood industry, especially this legislation to restrict federally subsidized seafood purchases by school districts to fish harvested in the U.S.,” said Joe Bundrant, CEO of Trident Seafoods Corporation. “Alaska pollock is a versatile, nutritious and affordable seafood product, ideal for the school lunch program. This legislation can help ensure that our children get the best choice at a good value for school districts.”