Today the Governor is scheduled to sign into law the Local Farms – Healthy Kids bill (SSB 6483). The bill passed the legislature earlier in the month with bi-partisan and essentially unanimous votes. This new law will make it easier for schools to buy locally grown food – providing markets for local farmers and nutritious, fresh local food for our children. Additional parts of the law increase locally grown food in food banks, as well as increase access to farmers’ markets for low-income families. As a package, this law now gives Washington the most comprehensive local foods program in the nation.

“The power of this idea has been amazing,” said Representative Eric Pettigrew, one of the most important legislative leaders on this bill. “This package creates opportunities for farmers, school kids, and in particular people with lower incomes by getting more locally grown food into school snacks and lunches.”

An incredibly broad and diverse coalition of supporters helped pass the legislation (see a full list of official supporters at end of release). Early momentum was created for the proposal when it was selected as one of the environmental community’s Priorities for a Healthy Washington for 2008. In addition, Governor Gregoire and her staff provided crucial support to help prepare the bill for the legislature.

“Farmers, environmentalists, schools, students, food banks, farmers markets, faith groups, and poverty, public health and children’s advocates all worked together to get this bill passed,” said Mo McBroom, Policy Director for Washington Environmental Council. “This is a great investment and a big first step toward re-connecting people to where our food comes from.”

What the Bill Does

  • Eases state and school procurement restrictions to better enable school districts and state entities to choose local.
  • Eliminates low-cost bidding requirements for school purchases of Washington-grown food and allows schools to adopt price preferences for local food,
  • Requires development of food procurement procedures for state entities to encourage and facilitate purchasing of Washington grown food to the maximum extent practicable, and
  • Requires all state food contracts to include a plan to maximize the availability of Washington-grown food purchased through the contract.
  • Establishes a Farm to School Program that will facilitate the purchasing of Washington–grown farm products by schools.
  • Program includes 2 ½  full time employees in the Dept. of Agriculture that will coordinate with the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Department of Health,
  • Program will work with schools and farmers to promote school purchasing, assist farmers in marketing to schools, and provide curricula on the nutritional and environmental benefits of consuming locally grown food.
  • Creates the Washington Grown Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.  Provides $600,000 per year in grant funds to elementary schools with high numbers of low-income students to make available a locally–grown fruit and vegetable snack program.
  • Promotes school gardens.  Authorizes schools to grow food for consumption in their regular snack and meal programs, and requires school garden programs to include education about organic and conventional growing methods.
  • Establishes a Farmers Market Technology Program.  Provides $50,000 for the purchase of wireless technology to allow farmers markets to accept both food stamps and credit cards.
  • Establishes three Farm to Food Bank pilot programs.  Allocates $350,000 to establish three pilots allowing food banks to contract with farmers for a steady supply of fresh-locally grown food.
  • Expands and increases funding for the Farmers Market Nutrition Program.  Requires the Dept. of Health to establish rules for farm stores to participate in the program, and provides an additional $200,000 in coupons to allow low income seniors and women with infant children to shop at farmers markets.