Let’s talk policy!
In late October, to cap off Farm to School Month, about a dozen friends of FoodCorps came to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and advocate for farm to school policies. Sharing impactful stories of their direct experience in the school food field, FoodCorps alumni and other partners met with more than 30 senators and representatives and their staff to build support for the Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act.
Earlier this year, we completed our first-ever Policy and Advocacy Crash Course for alumni of our service program. Over a series of remote sessions featuring guest speakers with expertise in policy advocacy, alumni learned about the importance of bringing an equity lens to policy work, how a bill becomes a law, the basics of effective advocacy, and other related topics.
For our Hill Day on October 29, FoodCorps invited a group of alumni who completed that course and who are from states whose Congressional delegations are on key committees overseeing school food.
Our Hill Day participants spent a packed day and a half with us in D.C. Here’s a snapshot of what they did.
Our day on Capitol Hill
To make the most of our time in D.C., we knew it was important to ground our work in some tried-and-true education about the process of policymaking. We started with a primer from our partners at the National Farm to School Network on the bills they would be advocating for, and then learned the nuts and bolts of an effective lobbying visit.
The next morning, we heard a conversation on the importance of civic engagement and policy advocacy between Cecily Upton, FoodCorps’ co-founder, SVP, and Chief Strategist, and Dorothy McAuliffe, FoodCorps board member, former First Lady of Virginia, and school food advocate. Participants had an opportunity to participate in small group discussions to learn from leaders in the school food world before heading to Capitol Hill to conduct their lobbying visits.
Over the course of the afternoon, our advocates met with the offices of senators and representatives from all over the country and all over the political spectrum. In these meetings, former FoodCorps AmeriCorps service members shared their personal experiences of working with kids and alongside educators to get school communities excited about healthy food. They connected their experiences back to legislation like the Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act, highlighting the power of fresh food to support kids, communities, and local economies. We then capped off the day with a festive reception co-hosted by the National Farm to School Network, where we celebrated school food and farm to school with friends and partners.
The whole event from our arrival to the closing night event was really empowering. It made me feel capable and ready to be more involved in advocating for policy in the future on the state and national levels. —Mary Rochelle, FoodCorps alum
The impact of advocacy
In the days after our Hill Day, Sen. Boozman (R-Arkansas) and Sen. Tester (D-Montana) signed on as co-sponsors of the Kids Eat Local Act and Sen. Murphy (D-Connecticut) and Sen. Tester signed on to co-sponsor the Farm to School Act of 2019.
As Congress continues to consider reauthorizing child nutrition programs, it is necessary to continue building support for these bills to ensure they are included in the final legislation. We were proud to bring this group of passionate advocates to D.C. to share stories from the field with their lawmakers.