Child Nutrition, Promoting the Trades, and Exciting Developments at EWU

Dear friends and neighbors,

I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with laughter, family, and delicious food. As we gear up for the legislative session, I wanted to share some of the things I have been up to this November and some of my goals for the upcoming year.

Child Nutrition

Food is health. Consistent access to nutritious foods ensures kids have the fuel they need to learn, grow, and play. Throughout my time in the Legislature, I have worked to expand access to free, healthy meals at our schools. In 2020, I helped pass a bill to expand access to free and nutritious meals for students by requiring schools to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision if it made financial sense. The Community Eligibility Provision allows schools with a certain percentage of students eligible for free or reduced lunch to serve free meals to all of their students. This removes a barrier to kids getting the fuel they need to learn and provides a baseline level of heath and nutrition for entire communities.

As we enter the new year, I will continue to look for ways to build of what we have already accomplished here in Washington. This year, Washington schools will have access to a new grant program through the Department of Agriculture that will provide schools and daycare centers with money to buy fresh, healthy food directly from farms. We also have an opportunity to continue to expand access to free meals for Washington students through changes in the Community Eligibility Provision. The Build Back Better Agenda currently contains investments that would allow Washington to qualify as a state for the Community Eligibility Provision, allowing us to double the number of children that we provide free meals to. I have advocated for Congress to pass these vital investments in our children’s health and help end child hunger. You can read my op-ed in the Spokesman-Review to learn more about how we can leverage these federal investments to create the maximum impact here in Washington.

Promoting the Trades and Apprenticeships

Our education system often focuses on preparing students for college at the detriment of preparing students for a career in the trades. Skill Centers are one way that Washington is helping to meet critical workforce needs and provide skills for family wage jobs through career connected learning and technical education. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the NEWTech Skill Center here in Spokane. I supported over $8 million in capital funding in 2015 to expand and renovate the Skill Center. It was wonderful to get to connect with students studying criminal science as well as enjoy an amazing lunch from the culinary students.

Another new program that is helping people enter a career in the trades is the Pre-Employment Preparation Program (PEPP). I recently joined my seatmate, Rep. Timm Ormsby, for the graduation of PEPP’s first class. This four-week program provides students with a $100 a week stipend to attend. Graduates leave the program with a North American Bldg. Trades Unions’ Multi-Craft Core Curriculum Certificate, a forklift credential, a bucket of American made hand tools, standard PPE, work boots, a Carhartt work jacket, plus certifications in first aid, traffic control, and OSHA-10.

Exciting Developments at Eastern Washington University

Two big developments brought me to Cheney this month. I had the pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting for Eastern Washington University’s new Interdisciplinary Science Center Building. The new building, partially funded through the state’s Capital Budget, will host physics, chemistry, biology, and geology classes and will provide a big boost to EWU’s science education programs.

I also got to tour and shoot a promo video for Spokane Transit’s new Eagle Station. Funded significantly by a state Regional Mobility Grant, this new facility will serve 1,000 passengers a day and be able to accommodate 100 students at a time. Outfitted with heaters and real-time screens to project route times, this highly visible Eagle red station is part of the larger Cheney Line project. The Cheney Line project will deliver a high performance transit route between Spokane and Cheney, improving air quality and providing equitable access to education. You can watch my promo video here.

As always, it’s an honor to serve our community.

Best Regards,

Representative Marcus Riccelli