Dear School Garden Enthusiasts,
I’m writing about a bill that the Farm to School Network is working to pass: LD 1431, An Act To Support School Nutrition and Expand the Local Foods Economy.
The bill increases local, Maine-grown and -produced food in public schools and funds people who show they can create food hubs that will help do this. First, it incentivizes schools to train food service personnel on cooking with local foods by doubling the Local Produce Fund matching dollars available for school districts that send an employee to be trained. Second, it provides research grants and low-interest loans to farmers, producers, and businesses who are working to scale up and gain access to bigger markets like schools and other institutions. The bill is all carrots and no sticks. It will provide a boost to schools that are already bringing farm-fresh foods, and can kick start schools looking to begin a program. You can learn more about the bill in the attached summary.
I wanted to reach out to you because of the great work that those of you involved in school gardens do to promote the awareness of healthy foods to your students.
It’s definitely possible that we can pass this bill – at least part of it – but only if we make sure that legislators in Augusta hear from people like you who are doing such good work on this issue. I’m hoping that you or somebody from your school garden program will testify on this bill in January, through a letter or in-person. The hearing date hasn’t been set yet, but it’s tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, January 21st. We can provide more background and talking points.
Another option, in addition to testifying, is holding an in-district meeting in January with your local Senator or Representative. If this is something you’re willing to do, we can help arrange it.
Please let me know if either of these options – testifying or meeting with your local Senator or Representative – will work for you. I realize it’s a busy time of year – but timing is tight on this bill, and we’re getting our ducks in a row now so that we don’t have to scramble in January. Thank you!
Thank you for all you do, and happy holidays,
Maine School Garden Network Coordinator