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Food Equity Council Advocacy Update 

The Prince George’s County Food Equity Council is always trying to find new ways to keep its members connected. Our 2023 policy tracker tool , which was updated weekly, features state-level bills the food council supports along with a short description and the relevant information. The 2023 Maryland General Assembly has come to a close and we wanted to provide some updates on bills we have been tracking this season. Below you will find the bill number, synopsis, and status of each bill. 

Bills: 

SB0353 – Higher Education – Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program – This bill would require the Governor, beginning in fiscal year 2025, to include in the annual budget bill a $225,000 appropriation for the Hunger-Free Campus Grant Program; requiring public institutions of higher education and regional higher education centers to include at least $25,000 in cash or in-kind contributions as part of the matching requirement for the Program; requiring the Maryland Higher Education Commission to allocate at least $25,000 and not more than $150,000 to institutions and centers for certain activities; etc. The bill passed the Senate and was amended to decrease the appropriation from 1.5 M to $225k. It did not advance in the House.

SB0562 – Maryland Small Food Banks Grant Program – Establishment – This bill would establish the Maryland Small Food Banks Grant Program in the Department of Human Services; requiring the Department to give priority to nonprofit entities in the State that conduct assessments, with ongoing data collection to track success, and can demonstrate strong community involvement and partnerships, consistent stakeholder engagement, sustainability with diverse funding streams, innovation, and a focus on underserved communities; and authorizing the Governor to include in the annual budget bill up to $3,000,000 for the Program. This bill is supported by the MDFSRC,we will continue to monitor, third reading passed and has now reached referred appropriations in the House. The hearing date was 3/30 at 1:00 p.m, and is currently under review. 

HB0502 – Department of Human Services – Electronic Benefits Transfer Cards – Theft of Benefits (Prevent Electronic Benefits Theft Act of 2023) – Requiring the department of Human services to restore any benefits that were lost due to theft . Status : The bill is supported by the MDFRSC and each version of the bill has passed both chambers and has passed. The bill has now been passed over to the Governor’s desk.  

SB0559 – Education – Maryland Meals for Achievement In-Classroom Breakfast Program – Provides state funding so that schools can offer students breakfast in the classroom at no charge.

Annual Appropriation – The bill is supported by the MDFSRC, and passed out of both the Senate and the House and is now being sent to Wes Moore. Additionally, the Governor is adding over $2M from the supplemental for the next school year!

Status of bills we have been tracking: 

SB0557 – Primary and Secondary Education – Breakfast and Lunch Programs – Universal Expansion – Requires each school that participates in the Federal Breakfast program to offer each student a meal at no cost. Status : The Healthy Meals for All bill unfortunately did not pass out of either committee, have a voting session or receive the funding we had hoped for so it will not be passed this year. 

SB0034 – Department of Agriculture – State Specialist for Value-Added Agriculture – Established a specialized position in the Department of Agriculture to serve as the person of contact for individuals interested in agriculture. Status: The bill passed both the 2nd and 3rd reading. It has also passed review in the original chamber and has been passed to the Governor’s desk. 

HB0584 – Income Tax Credit – Food Donations by Qualified Farms – Sunset Repeal and Alterations (Farmers Feeding Families Act) – Changes in the amount of tax credit placed on eligible farm food donations. Status : The bill unanimously passed the third reading, was referred to the Budget and Taxation committee and there was an initial reading in the house 3/29 at 1:00 pm. The bill has passed review in the original chamber and has been passed to the Governor’s desk. 

HB0152  – Department of Agriculture – Urban Agriculture Grant Programs – Alterations –  Altering the requirements under the Urban Agriculture Grant fund. Status : The bill has passed the second reading in the Senate on 3/21. On 4/7 the bill passed both chambers and has now been passed over to the Governor’s desk.

HB0063 – Certified Local Farm and Fish Program – Establishment – Altering the purpose of the Certified Local Farm and Fish Program and including food from invasive chesapeake invasive species providers. Status :  The bill has unanimously passed the third reading in the Senate. On 4/7 the bill passed both chambers and has now been passed over to the Governor’s desk.

HB0586 – State Procurement – Purchasing – Compost, Mulch, and Soil Amendments and Aggregate – Requires each unit of state government to include specified information for products produced from recycled or organic materials. Status : The bill has been referred to the Budget and Taxation committee and has received a favorable report on 4/05. The bill passed in its original chamber and was returned without amendments. The bill has now been passed over to the Governor’s desk.  

HB0893 – Environment – Water Utilities – Shut Off Protections (Water Access for All Protection Act) – Authorizes specified water utilities to shut off due to reasons of health/safety or during a national emergency. Status : The bill had an initial reading in the house 3/01 and was referred to committee. Unfortunately, the bill did not advance out of either committee.   

HB0848 – Drinking Water – Indirect Potable Reuse Pilot Program – Establishment – Authorizes the use of reclaimed water as a resource for drinking water treatment facilities. Status : The third reading passed in the House and Senate on 4/07 . The bill has been referred to the Education, Energy and Environment committee in the Senate and passed in its original chamber and was returned without amendments. The bill has now been passed over to the Governor’s desk. 

HB0789 – Catastrophic Event Account – Unit of Local Government – Authorized Fund –  This bill allows funds to be used by a unit of local government. Status : The third reading passed in both the House and Senate on 4/13 . The bill has been referred to the Budget & Taxation, Education, Energy and Environment committee in the Senate and is being reviewed in the original chamber.

HB0032 – Maryland Food System Resiliency Council – Established that the Maryland Food System Resiliency Council is in the Maryland Department of Emergency Management. Status : The second reading passed with amendments. The bill has unanimously passed the third reading in the Senate and was reviewed in the original chamber on 4/8. The bill passed in its original chamber and was returned without amendments. The bill has now been passed over to the Governor’s desk.

SB0542 – Public Safety – Emergency Management – Consumer Protections Against Price Gouging – Prohibits anyone from selling essential goods from significantly increasing prices during a certain state of emergency. The bill passed the third reading in the House and Senate on 4/5. The bill has been passed over to the Governor’s desk. 

Author: Laura Ndour, Spring 2023 Advocacy & Policy Intern