The seasons are changing, the year is coming to a close, and we are finally seeing forward motion on legislation that will have major impacts on kids and families. Here are your policy and advocacy updates from October and November.
Build Back Better Act passes in the House
After many months of negotiation and delays, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act—legislation that makes historic investments in school meals. Now, this roughly $2 trillion social spending bill heads to the Senate for passage before it can be signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Although many of the original funding proposals, including the child nutrition provisions, were pared down during the negotiations, the great news is that the bill includes a historic $10 billion investment in school meals programs. This investment will go a long way toward relieving child food insecurity and equipping schools to serve nourishing meals to all students. If passed, the Build Back Better Act will bring about:
- Free school meals to nearly nine million more children through July 2026
- More experiential food education, school gardens, and farm to school local procurement
- Critical funding for school kitchen equipments so that more schools can prepare nourishing meals that are scratch-cooked, culturally relevant, and locally sourced
- Summer EBT benefits to keep 21 million kids nourished in the summer months
- Significant progress toward relieving child food insecurity and equipping schools to serve nourishing meals to all students
Additionally, the bill also takes important steps towards reducing poverty and makes critical investments in child care, pre-K education, climate resilience, and debt relief for the country’s most economically distressed food producers.
Our FoodCorps community’s advocacy is making a difference! As the bill heads to the Senate, we need another big push to get the bill over the finish line. Your senators need to hear from you now! Urge your senators to pass this critical piece of legislation now so that families, kids, and school nutrition professionals can enjoy this holiday season knowing that their elected officials make them a priority.
Supply chain challenges continue to impact schools
As you may recall, supply chain challenges are making it harder for schools to keep kids fed, due to related hurdles like discontinued menu items, shortages, longer than normal lead times, significantly higher costs, delayed deliveries, and/or deliveries that contain a fraction of what was ordered.
Back in September, the USDA announced $1.5 billion to support schools in combating pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. This is one of a number of supports offered for the 2021-2022 school year. We are still waiting to see how exactly this money will be allocated to state agencies and districts.
FoodCorps believes in food equity— the idea that all people should be able to grow and consume healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods—and that our nation’s schools and kids should be able to access foods that reflect the values of their communities. That includes local foods, foods that are ethically grown and sourced, and foods that reflect local cultures. In addition to purchasing food on the commercial market, about 20% of the food schools purchase come from the USDA Foods in Schools program. Because the USDA purchases large volumes of food for federal programs, they can have a meaningful impact on the nation’s supply.
We are working in coalition with other national advocacy organizations to make recommendations to USDA on how this money can support a values-based food system, which ensures that purchased foods uphold shared values, like environmental sustainability and local economies.