Food ‘farm to plate’ bill passes to help Maine’s food insecurity issue

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

June 17th, 2013 

“Maine is at the forefront when it comes to small, local farms,” said Rep Adam Goode. “We should be doing all we can to make sure more people have the opportunity to buy food grown in Maine by our local farmers.”

But according to the 2010 Census, nearly one in seven Mainers is considered “food insecure,” meaning there is a limited or uncertain food supply. The bill would bring together several local and regional groups working on food policy throughout the state, as well as farmers and other interested parties. Today the State Senate unanimously passed a measure to establish a food policy council to develop a plan to increase access to locally grown and sustainable food for more Mainers across the state.

“Quite simply, we can do more to help hungry Mainers. We have the local resources to produce much more food in Maine, and feed many more Maine people. While we struggle with this food crisis, we have farmland ready for production and a labor force ready to work,” said Senate President Justin Alfond, the bill’s sponsor.

Alfond’s bill establishes the Maine Farm-to-Plate Commission, tasked with developing a strategic plan for agricultural economic development and identifying methods and the funding necessary to strengthen links among producers, processors, and markets.

“We have the opportunity to become the breadbasket of New England,” said Alfond. “I’m proud the Senate unanimously endorsed this common-sense measure to coordinate as a state to tackle the hunger crisis while jump starting economic development.”

In April, the Portland Press Herald reported on the growing lines at Maine’s food banks, noting that many of the patrons earn too much to qualify for food stamps, yet do not earn enough to pay for groceries.

The Commission will be made up of five core members, with four members coming from a diverse cross-section of food and agriculture advocate organizations, and one coming from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. These core members will then invite farm owners, food producers, and other interested parties to join the Commission.

The Commission will also study food sovereignty, through which local governments may regulate local food systems by local ordinance, and submit a report to the legislature by January 1, 2014.