Colorado would create a new grant program to help farmers produce healthy, nutritious foods for public school kids, under a bill sponsored by Rep. Faith Winter (D-Westminster), according to a news release distributed by Healthier Colorado.
From 1–3 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 20, at the Mountain Song Community School, 2904 West Kiowa St., residents will build and decorate barns in support of their local farmers and the Farm to School bill. People will be able to sign a petition and record a personal message about why they support the legislation.
House Bill 15-1088 is the first bill supported by Healthier Colorado, which was formed last year as the state’s only health advocacy organization focused exclusively on direct policy change, according to the release. HB 1088 passed through the House Education Committee Wednesday.
“We are excited to introduce a proven solution that can have a positive impact on kids’ health and our rural economies. This is a win-win for our state,” said Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado.
The bill addresses a problem faced by many school districts that would like to start farm to school programs: There are not enough local agricultural producers in the market to support the demand.
“Colorado farmers and ranchers want to deliver nutritious food to Colorado students, and some even take a loss in doing so,” said Anthony Zamora of Leffler Family Farms in Eaton. “This bill will make it viable for more local producers to put their fresh food on kids’ plates, instead of food that is processed or shipped from afar.”
The bill would provide funding to help producers pay for the costly food safety measures required by schools. It would also provide funding to help local producers meet schools’ needs and compete on price with large vendors who source their food from outside Colorado. At least 16 other states provide direct support for farm to school programs, while Colorado currently does not.
According to the release, research shows that farm to school programs work.
- Local fruits and vegetables are healthier. The longer produce stays on the road, the more likely it is to lose nutrients.
- Students who attend schools with farm-to-school programs are 28 percent more likely to choose healthy meal options than those who attend schools without such programs.
- Students who attend schools that serve local fruits and vegetables have a 14 percent lower chance of being overweight or obese.
- Farmers who participate in farm-to-school programs see an average 5 percent increase in their total income.
- Each $1 invested in farm to school programs produces $2.16 of local economic activity and, for every one job created by schools purchasing local food, 1.67 more jobs are created locally.
Healthier Colorado is supporting this bill based on feedback it heard on its statewide listening tour conducted in fall 2014.