On Dec. 20, President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the farm bill, into law. Since 1933, different iterations of the farm bill have largely influenced the state of food accessibility in this country, and this time is no different.
For those of us living in suburbs, urban areas, and otherwise not working in agriculture; the farm bill might seem merely tangential to everyday life. Folks here at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, however, know that edicts passed down from the farm bill will determine our ability to feed ourselves and our neighbors for years to come. Here is a brief look into just a few ways the 2018 farm bill will affect our community here in Midcoast Maine.
First, the bill includes $20 million in funding for a “Harvesting Health” pilot program which promotes prescriptions of healthy food, specifically produce, for low-income and chronically-ill Americans. This is a program pushed for by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, a farmer and U.S. Representative from Maine’s 1st District. This program will not only provide a higher percentage of vulnerable populations with healthy food, but it will also track health outcomes of folks with access to the program, attaching scientific data to the relationship between disease prevention and a quality diet. If this program proves successful, it could be the next frontier in proactive hunger prevention.
Secondly, this bill provides permanent and mandatory funding for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program. This program, now financed at $401 million, provides grants to organizations undertaking projects that will ultimately improve access to food for local communities. The Maine Farmland Trust has received funding from this program, providing our state with valuable farmland to sustain our food needs.
Regarding SNAP (previously known as food stamps), the farm bill has largely kept the program at status quo. In previous drafts of the bill, there were plans to impose work requirements that would ultimately prevent folks in need from receiving the nutrition they require. Thankfully, this stipulation was avoided in the final copy of the bill.
Yet another interesting provision of the bill has to do with food waste and recovery. Here at MCHPP, we rescue thousands of pounds of food each week and put it to good use feeding our community. This bill will commission a food waste study, which will examine current liability protections on food donations. These liability protections encourage citizens to donate food to agencies like ours, and a strengthening of the protections would be a buoy to hunger prevention organizations in Maine and across the country.
Every five years, we see a new version of this bill and every five years the American food landscape changes in accordance. We will inevitably see the effects of these laws at the grocery store, on the farm, and at the food pantry. If you would like to find out more about improving food access in the Mid Coast Community, please visit our website at www.mchpp.org.

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