When children go to school, they learn to read and write so they can get a good job or go to college. But what most don’t learn in school today is how to produce their own food.

A bill that would help students learn to feed themselves in a sustainable way passed through the Senate Committee on Education on Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Bill 376 would establish the Farm to School Program, which aims to educate students on how to produce food, as well as establish a network of local farmers to produce healthy public school meals. The bill passed through the Senate Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday afternoon.

If the bill also passes through the Senate Finance Committee and the rest of the legislative process, the farm to school program would provide public school students with locally grown foods in school meals and snacks, and additional health and nutrition education.

About half the states already have farm to school policies, and related programs can be found in about 45 percent of U.S. schools, according to the National Farm to School Network. Besides boosting local food economies, these programs can increase students’ physical activity, school meal participation, preference for fresh fruits and veggies and improve academic achievement and student behavior.

The farm to school program would carry a price tag of $300,000 a year. SB 376 would establish funding for two full-time farm to school program coordinators – one in the Department of Agriculture and the other in the Department of Education. The bill would allocate $150,000 for each full-time position for 2015-2016, and again in 2016-2017.

A companion bill, House Bill 627, passed through the House Committee on Agriculture and Education after hearings Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. Everyone who submitted testimony for HB 627 supported the bill.

“This should be viewed is an investment in Hawaii’s future to develop well-informed consumers and supporters of our local agricultural industries,” Christopher Manfredi, president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, said in written testimony.

HB 627 is scheduled to be heard by the House Committee on Finance, and will move on to the full House if it passes.

Farmers Market

Flickr.com: Brock Rosberry

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