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House Education Committee Passes Food Surplus Bill

Sarah Kellogg

A House committee cleared legislation that allows schools to give surplus food to students. While the practice was not previously prohibited, this bill gives explicit permission to do so.

Previously pending for a fiscal impact evaluation, the House Education Committee re-referred the bill to the agenda on Tuesday. According to Rep. Jim Dotson, R-Bentonville, the bill’s sponsor, the legislation would not have a fiscal impact on the state.

HB1569 allows public schools and open enrollment charter schools to set up a program that allows them to distribute extra food to students, or to donate it as opposed to disposing it at the end of the day. It does not require these schools to have such a program. Dotson said while there may be some schools that already have a program like this, the bill would clear things up in the state statute and deliberately allow it.

At just over a page long, Dotson said the reason why the legislation is even that long, is due to its support from other lawmakers. 

"The reason it’s that long is because of all of the co-sponsors. After I originally filed it, there’s a lot of people who wanted to be a part of this bill so I added them in," Dotson said. Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna, gave Dotson a scenario and asked if this program would help with it.

"So this is a situation where maybe at the end of the day there’s food leftover and children are going home to homes that may not have food, they have the opportunity to take this home and be fed?" Murdock asked. Dotson said yes. 

"Hopefully that would be the end result of this. Obviously it’ll still be a local decision by  the local districts and they will still have to comply with the Department of Health guidelines on making sure this food is safe," Dotson said.

The bill passed by a voice vote. It now heads to the House for a full vote. 

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