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S.272

Introduced by   Senator Starr of Essex-Orleans District, Senator Kittell of Franklin District and Senator Lyons of Chittenden District

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Education; agriculture; food service programs; appropriation

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to establish a mini-grant program to help schools obtain resources to increase their use of local foods and to educate schoolchildren about nutrition and farming; direct the secretary of agriculture, food and markets to help farmers find local markets for their products and to fund a project that will help Vermont farmers to process their products; direct the commissioner of education to expand training for school food service personnel; create a legislative committee on expanding markets for Vermont farmers; and appropriate funds therefor.

AN ACT RELATING TO INCREASING THE USE OF LOCALLY GROWN FOODS IN VERMONT SCHOOLS AND STATE AGENCIES

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS; INTENT

(a)  The general assembly finds that it is in the best interests of Vermont children, farmers, and communities to empower schools and state agencies to increase their use of local farm products in their food service programs, particularly school meals programs, because:

(1)  Research shows that children who exercise moderately and eat a healthy diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables are less likely to be overweight and have less risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure as adults.  Since a child can receive 55 percent of his or her daily nutritional requirements from the school breakfast and lunch program, it is important to encourage children to eat fresh fruits and vegetables at school.  This is particularly important for the 21,000 Vermont children who live in households unable to provide enough nutritious food in order to lead an active and healthy life.  Further, inadequate nutrition can prevent children from learning effectively; research shows an improvement in student behavior and academic performance and improved health scores when nutrition is improved.

(2)  Farmers gain an increased market for their produce.  In school year 2002-2003, Vermont schools spent $13 million on food for their food service programs, yet less than five percent of the $13 million went for direct purchase of produce from local farms and other local producers.  Recent farm-to-school efforts in Vermont have demonstrated that when children and food service personnel have relationships with local farmers and producers, they are more likely to try new foods, and use fresh and less-processed foods.

(3)  When Vermont farms are supported, the community benefits from the economic impact of food dollars spent locally, of the working landscape and open land crucial to Vermont's quality of life and tourism industry is maintained, and the environment gains through less dependence on a large transportation system.

(4)  When the agricultural sector is strong, the Vermont economy benefits:  agriculture accounts for 14 percent of Vermont's gross domestic product and 16 percent of Vermont jobs are in or related to agriculture.

(b)  Therefore, in order to encourage healthy and lifelong habits of eating nutritious local food as well as to foster relationships between farmers and schoolchildren, school personnel, and other adults in the Vermont community, it is the intent of this act to provide aid and incentives to local school districts and state agencies and farmers to:

(1)  serve food to Vermont that is as fresh and as nutritious as possible students and adults;

(2)  maximize use of locally grown fresh and processed Vermont food;

(3)  educate students about healthy eating habits through nutrition education, including connections between farming and the foods that students consume;

(4)  increase the size and stability of farmers' direct sales markets; and

(5)  increase school meal participation by increasing the selection of foods available to students.

Sec. 2.  LOCAL FOODS MINI-GRANT PROGRAM

(a)  There is created in the department of education a local foods

mini-grant program for the purpose of helping Vermont schools develop relationships with local farmers and producers and to obtain equipment, resources, and materials that will help them with the increased purchase and use of local foods in their school food service programs or with educating children about nutrition and farming.  Eligible activities for funding may include purchase of items that will help teachers to use hands-on educational techniques to teach children about nutrition and farm‑to‑school connections or professional development and technical assistance services for teachers about nutrition and farm‑to‑school education.

(b)  The commissioner of education may award small grants to a school district, a supervisory union, or a consortium of school districts or supervisory unions.

(c)  On or before January 30, 2008, the commissioner shall report to the senate and house committees on agriculture and education on the number and amounts of grants awarded, how the funds were used by each grantee, and to the extent possible, any increase in use of local foods as a result of the awards.

(d)  The state board of education may adopt rules as necessary to implement the grant program created under this section.

Sec. 3.  FARM ASSISTANCE; SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, FOOD

             AND MARKETS

(a)  The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall develop and implement educational opportunities for farmers to help them to increase their markets through selling their products to schools and state government agencies, and participating in the federal food commodities program, including the federal Department of Defense Fresh program.  

(b)  The secretary of agriculture, food and markets shall award one-time funds to a food processing facility or pilot project centrally located that would:

(1)  process Vermont farm products for school and institutional markets, thereby helping farmers to increase the size and stability of their markets; and

(2)  rent equipment to Vermont farmers so that they can process their products for sale.

Sec. 4.  PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR FOOD SERVICE

             PERSONNEL

(a)  The commissioner of education shall expand training and increase sessions for public school food service personnel during 2007.  Training shall include information about strategies for purchasing, processing, and serving locally grown foods, as well as information about nutrition, obesity prevention, coping with severe food allergies, and food service operations.  The commissioner may use a portion of the funds appropriated for this training session to pay a portion of or all expenses for attendees and to develop manuals or other materials to help in the training.

(b)  In 2007, the commissioner of education shall train people to provide technical assistance to school food service personnel and use a portion of the funds appropriated for this purpose to enable the trained people to provide technical assistance at the school and supervisory union levels.

(c)  On or before January 30, 2007, the commissioner shall report to the senate and house committees on human services, agriculture and education and the house committee on human services about the training sessions and shall make a recommendation concerning further training in 2008.

Sec. 5.  LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE ON EXPANDING MARKETS FOR

             VERMONT FARMERS

(a)  There is created a committee on expanding markets for Vermont farmers to consist of three senators appointed by the committee on committees and three representatives appointed by the speaker of the house.  The committee may meet up to eight times, shall receive per diems and expenses pursuant to section 406 of Title 32, and shall receive staff services from the legislative council.  The personnel of the agency of agriculture, food and markets; the department of education; the department of buildings and general services; and the agency of human services shall provide information to the committee as needed.

(b)  The committee shall study and make recommendations on the following:

(1)  Could and should Vermont establish a food service institute at one of our public colleges or at UVM for the purpose of training school and state agency food service personnel in nutrition, obesity prevention, coping with severe food allergies, and strategies for purchasing, processing, and serving locally grown foods?

(2)  How can the legislature facilitate production and use of lightly processed and value-added Vermont foods in Vermont schools and state agencies?  The committee shall study which Vermont products have the potential to be processed for use in schools and state agencies and examine how to have them processed, including consideration of whether there is potential to use existing capacity in school cafeterias or technical centers.

(3)  Are there other strategies the general assembly could adopt or encourage to increase use of locally grown foods in Vermont schools and state agencies? 

(4)  Would moving administration of the USDA food distribution program (the food commodities program) from the agency of human services to another department or agency such as the department of education or the agency of agriculture, food and markets improve integration of the program with efforts to include more fresh foods in general and Vermont-grown foods in particular?

(d)  On or before January 15, 2007, the committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the senate and house committees on agriculture, institutions, and education and the house committee on human services.

Sec. 6.  APPROPRIATION

(a)  The amount of $225,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education for the purpose of awarding local foods mini‑grants under Sec. 2 of this act.

(b)  The amount of $100,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education for training of food service personnel pursuant to Sec. 4 of this act.

(c)  The amount of $25,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the secretary of agriculture, food and markets for carrying out educational activities for farmers pursuant to Sec. 3(a) of this act.

(d)  The amount of $50,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the secretary of agriculture, food and markets to be used to support a food processing facility or pilot project pursuant to Sec. 3(b) of this act.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us