Is your kid eating canned peaches from China at school? If so, California peach farmers aren't happy about it.
The state's canned peach industry is behind an effort in Congress to tighten the rules for buying imported food for the federal school lunch program.
What they don't like is U.S. schoolchildren eating imported foods at a time when farmers are being hit with rising trade tariffs and increased foreign competition.
"The fact that U.S. tax dollars are being spent overseas to benefit foreign farmers rather than support our country's farmers, ranchers, ag workers and their families must end," said Rich Hudgins, president of the California Canning Peach Association in Ceres.
The association and other agriculture groups are supporting Senate Bill 2641 by Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Maria Cantwell, D-Washington. The bill would make it harder for school districts to buy imported food by making the public more aware of the practice.
The existing rules, which have been in place since 1988, require school districts to buy U.S.-made food products for the national school lunch program. But there are two notable exceptions: imported food is allowed when an American source can't be found, like bananas, or when the foreign product is substantially cheaper than the domestic one.
But Hudgins and others said the rules were not always being followed or monitored for compliance.
"In recent years, we have discovered that some school districts have chosen to spend tax dollars on imported food and beverage products when American-grown food items are not only available but grown literally just down the street," Hudgins said.
The issue blew up several years ago when the Sacramento City Unified school district was caught buying tens of thousands of dollars worth of canned peaches, pears and applesauce from China, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The district said at the time that the purchase was a mistake.
As part of the new legislation, school districts that seek a waiver must also agree to make the request public on a website of the "school food authority" and send an email to parents or guardians of students who will be served a "foreign commodity."
Local school food service officials say they do their best to make sure the food they prepare for children is American-made, as well as nutritious and within budget. But some of the food ingredient manufacturers don't always make it easy.
Robert Schram, food service director for the Clovis Unified School District, recalls the time he purchased vegetables described as "California blend" on the label. It turns out the product was from Holland.
"One of the biggest challenges is the labeling," Schram said. "You can get a package with an American flag on it but it doesn't say where it is grown, just where it was processed. You want to buy American but when you talk to the manufacturers it isn't as clear as you think it is."