2019 State Legislative Outcomes

Hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans many of them children lack access to healthy, affordable foods. Since 2016, the Good Food Access Program has provided financial and technical assistance to grocers, farmers and other small food retailers working to address Minnesota’s food access challenges, but demand for dollars has consistently exceeded available funding, and funds were set to run out this year. The Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition supported bipartisan legislation that would have provided $2.5 million each year to continue and expand upon this important work.

A small budget target for the agriculture committee proved to be a challenge this session, and in the end, lawmakers dedicated up to $300,000 per year to reinvest in the Good Food Access Program. This investment will help sustain the program through the next biennium, providing needed support to local grocers and farmers who are committed to increasing access to fruits and vegetables, dairy, lean meats and poultryfoods important to children’s health and reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Outcome: The Good Food Access Program was sustained with up to $300,000 in funding each year!

Issue lead: Lorna Schmidt, lorna.schmidt@heart.org

For more than 10 years, the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) has worked to prevent and reduce the leading causes of chronic disease: tobacco use and obesity. SHIP supports local community partners in all 87 counties and 10 tribal nations, with nearly 5,200 partner sites engaged across schools, worksites, businesses, the agricultural community, health care clinics and more. This session, we worked to protect and maintain full funding for SHIP at approximately $35 million per biennium.

Lawmakers agreed to maintain full funding for SHIP through the Health Care Access Fund. As part of final negotiations, they also revised statutory language to allow the commissioner of health to direct SHIP funds to new strategies that are based on data from the statewide health assessment but beyond SHIPs original scope of tobacco and obesity prevention.

Outcome: SHIP received stable funding of $35 million for the biennium!

Issue lead: Kari Oldfield, koldfield@mncounties.org

  • School Nutrition:

With the goal of establishing a voluntary “Breakfast After the Bell” program to help more kids eat a healthy breakfast and start the school day ready to learn, coalition partners supported bills in the House and Senate that would have provided state reimbursement for qualifying schools to provide free breakfast to all 2019 MHK Legislative Summary

students in a particular school building, if that school offered a breakfast delivery model allowing students to eat their breakfast after the start of the school day.

Costs associated with the bill as introduced in the House were $3.1 million in FY20 and $4.3 million in FY21. Qualifying schools were those at or above 30% of federal poverty. Before the state reimbursement would apply, qualifying schools would need to demonstrate to the commissioner of MDE that they were maximizing federal nutrition funds first and had a viable local plan to provide a breakfast delivery model to allow students to eat up to and after the first morning bell.

The House carried a modified version of the bill into the E-12 conference committee (defining qualifying schools as those at or above 40% of federal poverty) and included a further modified version of the proposal in their first budget offer during negotiations (phasing in a few more elementary grades) to try to reduce costs. Despite these amendments and a strong coalition effort led by the School Nutrition Association, Second Harvest Heartland, Hunger Solutions and Legal Aid, the bill did not become law.

Outcome: Despite progress in the House, “Breakfast After the Bell” did not pass this session.

Issue lead: Sam Walseth, sam@capitolhillassoc.com

  • Farm to School:

    Farm to School & Early Care initiatives support schools and early care providers in purchasing fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, grains and other foods from local farmers and producers, opening new markets for MN farmers while also giving children access to fresh, healthy foods in their school and early care meals. Coalition partners supported a bipartisan bill that sought to provide $3 million each year to reimburse schools and early care providers for their purchases of local foods (up to a certain amount dependent on the number of meals they serve) and create a full-time Farm-to-School Coordinator position at the MDA.

    With small budget targets to work with, lawmakers did not fund the program at the requested level; however, we were pleased that the final agriculture omnibus bill established a marketing position at MDA that explicitly includes facilitating farm to school sales in its scope of work. The bill also dedicates up to $400,000 to support farm to school, including reimbursing schools and early care providers for their purchases from local farmers. This amount is enough to pilot a reimbursement program that could hopefully be expanded in the future.

    Outcome: Farm to School & Early Care was supported with up to $400,000 in funding per year and a part-time coordinator position at MDA!

Issue lead: Erin McKee, emckee@iatp.org

  • Water Safety:

    Swimming is a good way to stay healthy and physically active, when done safely. Unfortunately, drowning is the second leading cause of death of kids (ages 1-14) and causes many more injuries in near drownings.

Coalition partners supported the State Alliance of YMCAs “Safety Around Water” initiative, which sought $500,000 for 10,000 (low-income) kids in the land of 10,000 lakes to receive scholarships for swimming lessons. Funds could also be used to train and hire water safety instructors and lifeguards, with money available to any organization that uses a nationally-recognized water safety program.

As part of the omnibus legacy finance bill, $100,000 dollars in new money was appropriated for a water safety grant program. This investment will help provide swimming lessons to more than 2,000 kids who otherwise would not have safe access to the lakes, rivers and community pools across Minnesota.

Outcome: The water safety grant program received $100,000 in funding—enough to provide swimming lessons to more than 2,000 kids!

Issue lead: Rob Vanasek, rob@capitolhillassoc.com