As the COVID-19 crisis continues, advocates are calling for food security measures and support for school meals across all levels of government. Here are the updates you need to know.
COVID relief measures stall while racial disparities in food insecurity persist
Nearly two months have passed since the House passed the HEROES Act—their version of the fourth COVID-19 relief package that would provide much-needed measures, including provisions to help ensure families and kids stay nourished. Despite the plea from countless advocates asking for more government actions, the $3 trillion emergency bill has not been considered by Senate leadership, which has shown little urgency in providing additional relief to families and businesses in need.
While the policymakers work to come to an agreement on the next relief bill, families across the country continue to struggle to get enough food—to an extent unprecedented in modern history. A recent study by Northwestern University paints a stark picture of the racial inequity in food insecurity exacerbated in recent months: nearly four in ten Black and Hispanic families with children are not getting enough to eat—double the rate compared to white families with children. More support from the government is needed now.
FoodCorps calls on Congress and the White House to take immediate action and pass additional relief measures to help feed families, including a boost in SNAP benefits, funding relief for school nutrition programs, and extending Pandemic EBT. When lawmakers return from the recess next week, they have a small window of opportunity to pass a new relief bill before they head out for a month-long recess. Now is the time to raise your voice—join us!
Senators introduce bipartisan CORPS Act to strengthen national service
FoodCorps joined Voices for National Service and others to support the Cultivating Opportunity and Response to the Pandemic through National Service Act (CORPS Act), a bipartisan bill led by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) to strengthen national service and support communities across the country. The CORPS Act will grow the national AmeriCorps service corps; increase the maximum living allowance for service members as well as education awards; encourage members to serve in the local communities they call home; and diversify the service corps to better represent communities they serve. Join us in urging Congress to include this important measure in the next COVID-19 relief package.
USDA extends school meal waivers through the upcoming school year
Last month, the USDA extended critical child nutrition waivers through the 2020–2021 school year, giving schools the ability to continue serving meals to students while adopting altered schedules and other reopening guidelines. In the face of school closures beginning in March, the USDA has waived regulations that normally guide how school meals programs are operated, allowing alternate service such as grab-and-go meal sites so that children who rely on school meals continue to get the nourishment they need to stay healthy during the pandemic. The announcement comes as school nutrition leaders across the nation prepare for the new school year, working tirelessly to chart a path forward with meal service that meets the needs of the students while maintaining everyone’s safety. With millions of adults losing their jobs and struggling to feed their families, school meals are more essential than ever, and these waivers are critical in making sure kids get healthy meals every day, even on days schools are not in session.
State and local policy wins for healthy school meals
Congress is not the only institution that can enact policies to help communities nourish families and kids. Despite the increasing financial shortfalls state governments are facing due to the pandemic, we are happy to share some recent state and local policy wins for healthy school meals.
- The legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom approved the 2020-2021 fiscal year budget that includes $10 million in funding for the farm to school program, and $112 million in funding relief for school meals programs that will help schools offset their increased operational costs and lost revenue.
District of Columbia
- The advocacy led by Councilmember Mary Cheh and our partners at DC Greens and DC Hunger Solutions successfully saved the city’s school breakfast and nutrition education programs from proposed funding cuts in the fiscal year 2021 budget.
- The next fiscal year’s budget, approved in April, included $10 million to continue the “Lunch for Lunch” Farm to School Reimbursement Incentive program, $1.5 million for the farm to school grants program, and a change to state procurement law which increased the small purchase threshold from $50,000 to $100,000—all of which will help schools connect kids with healthy food while strengthening states’ economies.
- Governor Roy Cooper signed a bill that includes $3.9 million in funding for schools to offer free school meals to a greater number of low-income children while also providing $75 million to cover costs associated with emergency school meals.
While we are pleased that lawmakers recognize the essential roles that school food and nutrition education play in students’ lives, we also know that we have a challenging year ahead with states, local governments, and school districts facing significant budget cuts due to the dire economic outlook. We will continue working with state and local partners to protect vital programs that nourish communities while advancing policies that connect kids to healthy school meals.
We’re also grateful to the partners who helped usher in these state victories, including the Center for Ecoliteracy, Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, NextGen California, the office of Kat Taylor, DC Greens, DC Hunger Solutions, American Farmland Trust, New York Grown Food for New York Kids Coalition, and others.