PRINCETON - (AP) -- New Jersey's Farm-to-School program, which connects more than 40 percent of the state's school districts with local food, is getting some updates.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, serving as acting governor while Chris Christie is out of state, signed five laws intended to help the program during a stop Monday at Terhune Orchards in Princeton, which provides crops to a dozen local districts.
The laws are intended to raise the visibility and fundraising prowess of the local programs.
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They include measures to require the state Agriculture Department to post information about the program on a website, including details of contracts between farms and schools. They also allow program donations to be made, including by a check-off on tax returns. School gardens could also benefit from the tax check-off contributions.
The measures also set up awards to recognize the state's top individual programs as another way to promote the efforts.
Another requires a new website to link farms with schools and food banks.
Lawmakers from both parties heralded the bills, saying the program is important for kids' nutrition and education and can also help the state's agriculture industry.
"By enhancing our state's farm to school program, we are providing children with more opportunities for healthy eating by getting lunches packed with fresh fruit and vegetables," Sen. Peter Barnes, a Democrat from Edison and a sponsor of four of the bills, said in a statement.
A federal government survey found that 44 percent of the nation's school districts had some sort of farm-to-school program in place during the 2011-12 academic year and 13 percent planned to add programs soon.
The state says more than two in five New Jersey districts have a program now.
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