Analysis of Bills Passed

Summer Food Programs
SB 89 (Lucio/Rodriguez) expands the number of children the state expects to serve in the federally funded Summer Food Service Program. The bill increases the number of school districts required to offer the summer meal program by stipulating that districts must offer summer meals if at least 50 percent of their students are eligible for free/reduced lunch. The prior regulation had set the limit at 60 percent of students eligible for free/reduce lunch, so the new law will increase the number of districts required to participate.
 
Congregations have increased options for partnering with local school districts to offer meals to kids during summer vacation. With the expansion of school districts responsible for summer feeding, congregations have increased opportunities to be sites for meal programs school districts sponsor.
 
Sustainability
The 82nd legislative session was a landmark for urban agriculture in Texas. Through HB 2994 (Miles/Estes), the Legislature opened up new directions for future work on the related issues of hunger, nutrition, economic development and local environmental planning.
 
Texas has one of the largest “grocery gaps” in the nation, with the fewest number of supermarkets per capita of any state. Texas’ major cities, including Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, are also underserved compared to most of the nation’s major metropolitan areas. Strangely, our growing obesity problem is related to this. People who have food access difficulties must resort to the processed foods found in convenient stores. Currently, these processed foods are also much cheaper than healthy and fresh food.
 
HB 2994 supports innovative urban farming technologies and research advancements through an innovation loan program. This bill promotes urban agriculture business development and increase the availability of fresh foods in underserved neighborhoods. Policies like these give Texans access to healthy & affordable foods. They also create jobs, increase economic investment in low-income areas, and revitalize neighborhoods.
 
Obesity
Childhood obesity is among Texas’ fastest growing health challenges. While this crisis is impacting every segment of our society, children in our poorest communities and minority populations are affected the most. Faced with limited opportunities to obtain healthy foods and limited access to safe natural open areas to play, many of our communities are confronted with increasing obstacles and spiraling disease rates.
 
This legislative session, legislators worked hard on passing bills to address childhood obesity. SB 226 (Nelson) provides Texas Education Agency (TEA) with information about students’ fitness exams. Currently, school districts are required to compile data about the fitness of their kids, but do not provide this data to TEA. SB 226 will require school districts to report their fitness data to TEA, who can use this data to develop better policies and curriculum for all Texan students.