Harris legislation to expand economy, education, food access in urban areas passes House

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(Photo by Lauren Sharp)
State Rep. Earl Harris Jr.

Legislation authored by State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago) to expand economic, education and food access in urban areas through agriculture passed through the House with bipartisan support.

House Bill 1283 provides for the creation of urban agricultural zones, which allow for the cultivation, processing, and distributing of food in areas typically reserved for urban development.

“Agriculture is a key part of Indiana’s economy, but Hoosiers in urban areas like East Chicago may not feel like they can participate in it because of their surroundings,” Harris said.

“There are many benefits to expanding agriculture to these urban areas. Young people would learn about the science involved and realize this is a career opportunity. Restaurants would have access to locally-sourced, healthy produce. I think this kind of legislation, that offers hope and opportunity, is much-needed after the year we’ve all had.”

Harris also highlighted the impact this legislation could have on COVID-19 recovery. As part of his research for HB 1283, Harris toured urban agricultural sites in Indianapolis with Purdue University last November. Many of these sites donated significant portions of their produce to local food banks, which have seen increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I commend Indianapolis’s urban farmers for not only breaking down barriers, but for stepping up and helping their communities during this difficult time,” Harris explained.

“Food deserts are a growing issue in urban areas. Now combine that with the financial strains associated with COVID-19, and people are really hurting. We need a long-term solution for our state’s food insecurity issues and I believe urban agricultural zones are a step in the right direction.”

HB 1283 passed unanimously through the House. It will now be referred to the Senate for consideration.

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