Washington Gives Us Good News on Food

Food issues have been stressing a lot of us out lately. GMO’s in our food supply, increasing pesticide use, falling yields and rising prices on basic staples like rice are making it more difficult for all people to eat healthy, but particularly for the poor who end up falling back on foods that are less healthy and artificially low in price due to farm subsidies on crops like corn. So it is good news that Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law the Local Farms-Healthy Kids and Communities Act (PDF) on March 27th, despite efforts by the processed food industry to block its passage. Perhaps Washington State can show Washington D.C. how to legislate without constantly seeking the stamp of approval from lobbyists.

The Seattle Times calls the nearly unanimous passage of the act, which not only promotes Washington-grown foods, but also facilitates a farm-to-school program, a “significant bipartisan success.” The legislation does not require schools to participate but eliminates bureaucratic impediments to schools buying local and offers grants for purchasing from local vendors. The program will be overseen by the state Department of Agriculture and the Superintendent of Public Instruction's Office.

$1,490,000 was appropriated to fund the legislation which seeks to promote the consumption of Washington-grown produce through schools, food banks and farmers markets. The increase in consumption of locally grown foods will also have the added benefit of saving energy through reduced packaging, shipping, storage and refrigeration.

It's time to stop the food miles madness
According to Priorities for a Healthy Washington, the bill may very well represent the most progressive effort in the U.S. in terms of promoting local food policy and expanding access of fresh, local, healthy foods to the poor. The legislation
  • Eases state and school procurement restrictions, eliminating low-cost bidding requirements and making it easier to choose local vendors
  • Establishes a Farm to School Program to facilitate more state grown products in schools and provide curricula on the benefits, both health and environmental, of consuming locally grown foods
  • Provides grants to schools with a high number of low-income students to provide a local fresh fruit and vegetable snack program
  • Promotes school gardens, including educational components on organic and conventional growing
  • Provides grants for farmers markets to purchase wireless technology to accept food stamps and credit cards
  • Allocates funds to pilot a program to allow food banks to contract with farmers for fresh produce
  • Provides $200,000 in coupons for low income seniors and women with infants to shop at farmers markets
As food prices continue to rise and states take on issues like climate change, health and food policy where the federal government has either abdicated its responsibilities or failed to implement well thought out policy, Washington may be the model for states to follow.

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  • Posted on April 8, 2008. Listed in:

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