WASHINGTON STATE

HOUSE DEMOCRATS

Riccelli, Wilson champion expanded access to healthy fruits and vegetables

baskets of fruit, apples

OLYMPIA – Companion proposals to help those struggling with food insecurity get more fresh fruits and veggies have been introduced in the state House and Senate.

Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, is sponsoring House Bill 1587.

“Rising obesity rates, particularly among children, are a big concern. How do we start to turn this trend around and give our kids the best shot at a healthy life? I’m excited about the provisions that help feed struggling families, and I’m particularly excited that with this bill, health professionals can offer ‘prescriptions’ for these healthy foods,” Riccelli said.

Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Auburn, is sponsoring Senate Bill 5583.

“When families can’t afford the cost of healthy foods, it affects performance in the classroom, on the job, and impacts pretty much anything they do,” said Wilson, vice chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. “The evidence shows that access to healthier food improves family health and eating habits. When families are able to benefit from healthier food options and consistent meals, the impact and the outcome is positive for all family members.”

Both bills help continue and expand existing pilot programs that began with the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI), a federal grant created through the 2014 Farm Bill. Washington state is the recipient of the nation’s largest FINI grant, but it expires this year. Riccelli’s and Wilson’s bills would keep the programs funded by the FINI grant moving forward, no matter what happens at the federal level. The programs enable people who receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to access produce at farmer’s markets, access additional funds for fruits and vegetables at authorized grocery stores, and get ‘prescriptions’ from providers at community health clinics good for fruit and vegetable purchases.

Additionally, the bills increase a fruit and vegetable benefit available to participants in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

“Nutritious food is a key ingredient to help struggling families find a pathway towards financial stability. Unfortunately, the cost of healthier food choices is often out of reach on a tight budget built on low wages and limited resources,” said Christina Wong, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy at Northwest Harvest. “This legislation offers a common sense solution to that problem by providing additional resources to make fruits and vegetables more affordable.”

House Bill 1587 will receive a public hearing in the House Human Services & Early Learning committee on January 30.

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