Food Advocacy at the White House: Your May Policy Updates

This month, we’re continuing to watch how Congress responds to expiring free school meals waivers, preparing for a major moment at the White House, and monitoring updates in school food policy state by state. Here are the updates you need to know. 

School meal waiver updates

The update: Along with thousands of other school meals advocates across the country, FoodCorps continues to urge Congress to pass the bipartisan “Support Kids Not Red Tape Act,” which would extend critical school meal waivers. 

While the path forward for this important legislation remains unclear, we are grateful for advocates like you and for Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and other legislative champions for their continued efforts to get this legislation across the finish line. The FoodCorps community has sent more than 1,000 emails to senators—and there’s still time to send yours

Why this matters: Free school meals for all—which has kept millions of kids fed throughout the pandemic—is about to end on June 30, 2022. Without Congress’ immediate action to extend these critical waivers, many schools and summer meal programs will be forced to shut down, putting millions of kids at risk of going hungry. 

What you can do: Urge your senators to prioritize children’s well-being, not red tape.

Related: Educator’s View: Hungry Kids Can’t Learn. Congress Must Extend Pandemic Waivers so Schools Can Keep Giving Students the Nutritious Food They Need

Bonus actions for advocates in Massachusetts: Some states are trying to take the matter up themselves. In Massachusetts, the state legislature is considering a one-year extension of school meals for all. If you live in Massachusetts, join FoodCorps, Project Bread, and the Feed the Kids coalition in urging your state legislators to extend school meals for all kids in Massachusetts.  

Food advocacy is coming to the White House

The update: This month, President Joe Biden announced that this September, policymakers and food policy advocates will gather for the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health

We’re excited to share that our own Curt Ellis, CEO and Co-Founder of FoodCorps, was invited to serve on the Task Force on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, an independent group of stakeholders that will inform the conference’s goals and agenda. FoodCorps plans to participate in this conference in a meaningful way and inform our nation’s policymakers on why kids’ health, education, and sense of belonging are essential to the future of our country.

What this matters: First convened in 1969, this conference advanced policy changes that expanded essential programs such as SNAP, WIC, and the school breakfast program. Now, 50 years later, we have a rare opportunity on the national stage to educate and inform policymakers about the value of food and nutrition education in schools to create a more just future for our children.

What you can do: In the next months leading up to the conference, the White House is expected to hold virtual, regional listening sessions as well as other opportunities for policy makers to hear directly from advocates. Please join a White House listening session and make your voice heard! We need as many people as possible to speak about the importance of food education to make it a priority on the conference agenda.

Wins for Connecticut policy

The update: The Connecticut legislature appropriated additional $250,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the CT Grown for CT Kids grants program

What this means: ARPA funding will allow for more food education and more locally sourced, farm-fresh fruits and veggies to be served in Connecticut schools in the coming year, a win for kids and communities alike. 

More info: Naugatuck Public Schools, a FoodCorps service site, hosted Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro at Andrew Avenue Elementary School this month to highlight the CT Grown for CT Kids Grants program and share how federal dollars are being used for farm to school efforts in the Congresswoman’s district. Learn more about this visit on Facebook.

USDA extends the Local Food for School cooperative agreement deadline

The update: The USDA has extended the deadline for the Local Food for Schools cooperative agreement to July 20, 2022. This program provides $200 million for state and Tribal entities to target sourcing local foods from socially disadvantaged producers and small businesses for school meal programs.

Why this matters: In the words of the USDA: “This program will strengthen the food system for schools by helping to build a fair, competitive, and resilient local food chain, and expand local and regional markets with an emphasis on purchasing from historically underserved producers and processors.”