The House Study Committee on Food Desert Zones The committee made several recommendations and a legislative proposal following three meetings and presentations from more than 30 stakeholders in anticipation of the short legislative session.
Recommendations include the Committee submitting its findings on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to the FDA, encouraging local education agencies to increase participation in school breakfast and the Farm to School programs, and appointing a Joint Legislative Study Committee to further study the issue.
FSMA is a sweeping, federal food safety reform bill that was signed into law in 2011. Lawmakers on the committee heard that nearly every farmer in the state will be affected by FSMA in some way and heightened safety and recordkeeping measures could drive up costs on farmers, which would then pass along to the consumer.
The Committee voted to recommend that these findings be shared in a letter to the FDA. They also decided to “encourage” the Department of Agriculture to continue working to expand the North Carolina Farm-to-School Program, where food from local farms is brought into schools.
Democrats on the Committee, including Rep. Larry Hall of Durham and Rep. Yvonne Holley of Wake, requested that the recommendation be worded to encourage partnerships between local agencies in implementing the Farm to School Program and encouraging school districts to report on their abilities to implement the program. Hall noted that it merely mimics what is already being done.
Republicans on the Committee voted against Hall’s proposal, saying it was overly burdensome on school districts that might not have the resources to implement the program.
Finally, the Committee plans to introduce legislation that would allow officials from the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with North Carolina Cooperative Extension officials to implement food stamp education initiatives.