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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Guest opinion: Food forum bill deserves support

Linda Stone And Jim Baird Special to The Spokesman-Review

Across the nation, people from all sorts of backgrounds, including first lady Michelle Obama, are realizing we need to change the way we think about food. One way that’s gaining momentum here in Washington is the establishment of the Washington Food Policy Forum (Substitute Senate Bill 6343), sponsored by Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle.

The Forum would directly address issues such as food costs, access to healthy food, environmental impacts of our food choices, and finding ways to keep our working farms working and enhance our soils so they can produce healthy food for the next generations.

Currently policy initiatives including food safety, food security, farm-to-school programs, nutrition policy and agriculture programs come from their own silos. Without better coordination and collaboration, we’re not making the smartest, healthiest or most efficient decisions for our health, economy or future. That’s why Eastern Washington farmers and child advocates are joining with others to support the Food Policy Forum legislation.

There are more than 100 such Food Policy Councils across the U.S. and, in a short time, they have shown success in several key areas, from which our state could greatly benefit.

First, they bring together the many stakeholders representing each food system sector – production (e.g., farms/farmers), processing and distribution (food and trucking businesses, emergency food system providers), retailing (grocery stores, farmers markets and food cooperatives), preparation (organizations providing food and nutrition education) – and establish a forum for airing interrelated food system issues and providing real opportunity for developing solutions that meet multiple goals.

Next, they bring policy questions to the surface and stimulate research and development of better public policy in key areas, including:

•How to keep farms viable for the long-term.

•How to address childhood obesity by working to increase healthy foods available to school kids and in our communities.

•How to promote and advance food-related businesses in our state and increase access to fresh, Washington-grown foods at home and on the global market.

•How to end childhood hunger through efficient and effective programs that support healthy nutrition.

•How to increase the nutrient density of the food grown and increase the organic matter in our farmland.

•How short- and long-term policies could support farmers while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use throughout Washington

The Washington Food Policy Forum provides an excellent opportunity to improve the way our food system and our state government serve the people of our state. We urge Gov. Chris Gregoire to sign SSB 6343 into law so we can get to work on building a healthy future for all of us.

Linda Stone, of Spokane, is senior food policy coordinator for the Children’s Alliance. Jim Baird is a farmer in the Royal City area.
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