Democrats McCabe, Millett Urge Support of LD 1185, Enhancing School Efforts To Use Locally Produced Foods
Maine would take a step toward increasing the use of locally produced foods in schools under a measure sponsored by Assistant House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe of Skowhegan. McCabe’s bill, LD 1185, “An Act To Enhance Efforts To Use Locally Produced Food in Schools”, would require school districts to include its use of local foods in its existing annual reporting on their school meal programs. The addition of local foods to the report would require only a minor change to the existing reporting website.
The designations would be included on the state Department of Education website.
Wiscasset Primary School, which purchases food from eight local farms, has had success in incorporating local foods into its cafeteria offerings, according to Abby Plummer, program director and farms-to-school educator for Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools.
“The food service staff feels very proud to be able to serve fresh, healthy, local foods to children, and to support our local farmers and the economy,” Plummer said in testimony. “The children are excited every time there is a new local food item on their tray. Students who are exposed to local foods are learning lifelong healthy eating habits and simultaneously gaining a sense of respect, responsibility and appreciation for farming, their state, their community and their environment.”
A typical food item in the United States travels 1,500 miles from farm to its final destination, and industrial agriculture is responsible for 20 percent of the nation’s fossil fuel consumption, Alexandra Fields, preservation associate for Environment Maine said in testimony. Locally produced foods reach their destinations in a more efficient manner, are less likely to have been produced with excessive chemicals and do not lose nutrients in a long shipping process, she said.
“And, when schools buy seasonally, they are serving the freshest and best-tasting fruits and vegetables available, which is exactly what Maine’s kids deserve,” she said.
The bill, co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, also has the support of other supporters including Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association and Maine People’s Alliance.
Here is the testimony of the bills’ lead sponsor, House Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Jeff McCabe (D-Skowhegan).
- Good afternoon Senator Millett, Representative MacDonald and distinguished members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. My name is Jeff McCabe and I serve as State Representative for District 85, the town of Skowhegan. I am pleased to present to you LD 1185, “An Act to Enhance Efforts to Use Locally Produced Food in Schools”.
I think we can all agree that providing our students with fresh, healthy food sets them up for success in the classroom. Research shows that healthy eating can improve children’s concentration and classroom behavior and help them perform better in school. It also helps to lay the groundwork for healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. One great way to achieve this is to increase the amount of fresh, locally produced food that is available to our students.
This bill seeks to simply ask schools to add this once-a-year report to the nutrition and pricing reporting that they are already required to submit to the Maine Department of Education. The reporting is designed to be simple and integrated into the system that school nutrition professionals are already using to track and report the meals they serve, utilizing the same website that schools are currently using for this purpose. This minor addition to the current reporting requirements would provide parents, educators and lawmakers with a wealth of information about the food schools are serving our kids.
I was surprised to learn that even though Maine is a rural state with a proud farming and fishing tradition, we import more of our food than any other state in the continental United States. That sad reality can easily result in serious consequences for our state’s overall health, educational achievement, environment and economy.
Rather than make guesses or assumptions, based on anecdotal information, this processes would give the Department useful data when making school nutrition choices in the future. I urge the committee to support the bill and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Chair Senator Rebecca Millett (D-Cumberland) also testified on behalf of LD 1185:
- Good afternoon Representative MacDonald and fellow Members of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. I am Senator Rebecca Millett, representing District 7, which includes South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and a part of Scarborough. I am pleased to come before you in support of LD 1185, “An Act to Enhance Efforts to Use Locally Produced Food in Schools.”
We all know eating locally is better for the environment. When the produce and animal products we consume come from our neighbors’ farms, the fossil fuels used to transport these goods is dramatically reduced thus lowering carbon emissions. But it is also better for us. When produce is sourced locally, it is fresher than produce that has been shipped from across the United States or even from other countries. When they are harvested, fruits and vegetables begin losing vitamins such as A, some B, C and E. Eating local produce means eating fresher, more flavorful and more nutritious foods.
When we increase the percentage of local foods in our school, we increase the nutrients our children consume. When our children consume healthier, nutritious diets, they are better able to focus, learn and strive in schools.
LD 1185 will encourage schools to source food for our children from local farms within our state. By creating an incentives program, schools will not be forces to make drastic changes but have an interest in improving the percentage of local produce over time. Schools across the state have been working hard in recent years to improve the nutritional content of the meals they serve, but we can make further improvements by increasing local content.
I ask you for your unanimous support for LD1185. Thank you for your time and I would be happy to answer any questions.