Healthy food is an essential building block for a full life. But right now, not all kids have access to healthy food or education about how to make healthy choices. Structural inequities based on race, place, and class have resulted in health disparities that have taken an unjust toll on children of color and children growing up in households struggling to make ends meet. Today, we’re happy to share the introduction of a bill that would address this: the Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act of 2020.
From practice to policy
At FoodCorps, our approach to policy is to elevate policy solutions grounded in the results of our work in communities across the country. Through our direct service program, we have seen how passionate food educators delivering well-designed, evidence-based, hands-on lessons can transform a child’s relationship to healthy food. This can transform schools into places that set kids up for a vibrant, healthy life. We’ve borne witness to this change in our nearly 10 years of work in diverse settings from rural Mississippi and Montana to New York City to Iowa.
We believe we can maximize our country’s approximately $18 billion investment in school nutrition through the placement of proven and effective food and nutrition educators who inspire student demand and love for healthy food. We know that successfully implementing strong school nutrition standards requires an equally strong support system of education and training.
And research backs us up. An evaluation of our work found that:
- 3 in 4 schools hosting a FoodCorps educator adopt new practices that help get kids eating healthier;
- More than 1 in 2 students who engage in 10+ hours of hands-on learning with a FoodCorps educator show improved attitudes toward vegetables, one of the strongest predictors of a healthy diet; and
- Kids who get lots of hands-on education from FoodCorps educators, like gardening and cooking, eat up to three times more fruits and vegetables at school than kids who get less.
Introducing… The Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act!
With this in mind, we commend Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) on their leadership in introducing the Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act. This bill would establish a pilot program that gives schools an essential resource: educators who implement hands-on, evidence-based food and nutrition lessons in schools. Under this pilot, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will establish programming in a diverse range of rural, urban, and tribal schools. All pilot schools will hire a full-time educator to implement evidence-based practices proven to maximize healthy food consumption and meal participation, such as hands-on learning, school gardens, taste-testing, or other student engagement and farm-to-school practices.
These pilots will be evaluated to understand their impact on dietary practices, student performance and behavior, food consumption, changes in cafeterias, and other indicators as determined by USDA. If enacted, we hope this bill and the pilot program demonstrate the value of qualified food and nutrition educators in schools. We envision a world where lessons about food and where it comes from are as integral to a student’s day as reading and writing. A policy like this one lays the foundation for further expansion of this type of food and nutrition education in schools, informed by the experiences and lessons learned from the pilot.
The goal for this marker bill is that it’s included in a larger package of bills that passes under the child nutrition reauthorization (or CNR) process. While it remains unclear when we will see further action on CNR, in the meantime, we are asking our network to contact their Senators and urge them to co-sponsor this bill.