SENATOR JOHNSON’S BILL TO INCREASE LOCAL FOOD IN SCHOOLS AND GROW AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY HEARD

Posted: January 22, 2014 | Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Education and Cultural Affairs, Senator Johnson

AUGUSTA – Democratic Senator Chris Johnson of Somerville introduced his bill to get more healthy, Maine produced food to our state’s schoolchildren to the Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee yesterday.

“Maine has a strong agricultural heritage, and we need to make it easier for schools to use fresh, healthy, locally produced foods,” said Senator Johnson.  “My bill will help the local farmers, and support our economy by keeping the money in Maine rather than sending it out of state.”

The bill would encourage the growth of “food hubs” across the state where foods harvested in Maine would be collected and minimally processed, making it possible for larger consumers, such as schools, to buy usable amounts of produce and save time preparing them at the school.  The bill would also help schools train food service personnel in preparing fresh food.

“This is a great opportunity to jump start food hubs, grow the infrastructure of Maine’s agricultural economy, create jobs, and provide better nutrition to our school children,” added Senator Johnson.

There was a time when Maine produced most of its own food, but now 90 percent of the food in Maine comes from out of state, more than any other state in the continental U.S.  According to a 2006 study for the Legislature, this food traveled an average of 1900 miles from “field to fork.”

More than 20 people testified in favor of the bill, including representatives from the Maine Farmland Trust, CEI, the Maine Environmental Priorities Coalition, and a number of individual farmers and fishermen who see this bill as a way to improve their businesses.

The Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee will hold a work session on the bill, LD 1431, “An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy,” on January 30 at 1:00 p.m. in Room 214 of the Cross State Office Building.