It’s #TimeForFoodEd: June Policy Updates

This month, we’re rallying our networks to tell the White House it’s time to make food education the standard for every child in every school. Have you signed the petition yet? Read on to learn why this is such an important moment for food in schools, and to learn other important policy updates. 

Congress passes Keep Kids Fed Act, extends free school meals

The update: Days ahead of the June 30 expiration date, Congress passed the Keep Kids Fed Act, a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to extend critical school meals waivers through the summer. This extension will allow schools and summer programs to continue providing free meals to children through the summer, as well as provide critical benefits like increased reimbursement rates for the 2022-23 school year and more flexible eligibility guidelines.

Why it matters: Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, federal school meals waivers have allowed all children to have free access to nourishing breakfasts and lunches. This was critical throughout remote learning, and remains critical with ongoing labor, economic, supply chain, and other pandemic-related challenges. Free school meals waivers remove barriers like income-based eligibility requirements and complex administrative processes, ensuring access for 30 million students regardless of their family’s financial background. However, we hope Congress will take further action to make free school meals for all a permanent fixture in our nation’s schools. 

Tell President Biden you support food education

The update: For the first time in 50 years, the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health is convening in September 2022. The last conference resulted in important policies like SNAP, WIC, and school meal programs. The upcoming conference could determine the next several decades of nutrition policy, which makes now a critical time to elevate issues that matter most. Our hope for the future of nutrition policy? We want to see a food educator in every school. 

Why it matters: Food education is key in nourishing every child’s health, education, and sense of belonging at school, especially for children of color, who face health and education inequities. Food educators guide this impactful work, and create opportunities for academic, nutritional, and social-emotional development for every child. That’s why we hope to see food education show up in the administration’s strategies for ending hunger, supporting child nutrition, and eliminating health disparities. 

What you can do: Sign our petition and share it with your community to help get food education in front of the administration. No matter who you are, your voice makes a difference!

USDA announces big investments to transform America’s food system 

The update: On June 1, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a plan for  “transforming the food system to be fairer, more competitive, and more resilient.” This plan includes federal investments across four areas of the food system: production, processing, aggregation and distribution, and market access. Highlights included investments to support school food authorities and farm to school programs:

  • $100 million for Healthy School Incentive Fund: This new program is tailored toward driving innovation in school meals via partnerships with the food industry, supporting schools to innovate and accelerate their efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. With these funds, USDA will support peer-to-peer learning and recognize local programs for their leadership, excellence, and efforts to deliver nutritious food.
  • $60 million for Farm to School: Farm to school programs are a proven model of increasing markets for farmers via child nutrition programs while also providing children nutritious, fresh food. These grants to states and territories administering farm to school programs will support increased procurement and use of local foods in child nutrition programs.  

Why it matters: These are just two in a large suite of investments that aim to create more markets for small and mid-scale farmers and more food supplies for schools and consumers by supporting existing models for success and the infrastructure to strengthen our food systems.

Free school meals for all in Vermont

The update: On May 31, Governor Phil Scott of Vermont signed the Universal School Meals Act. This means all children enrolled in public school in Vermont will have access to school breakfast and lunch for the 2022-2023 school year at no cost to the student. 

Why it matters: This is an important move toward free school meals for all! Vermont also recently passed legislation to expand its Local Food Incentive Grant Program and increase funding for the Farm to School and Early Childhood Programs. Together, these policies will mean more students accessing nutritious, diverse, and higher quality meals in schools. It will also help increase enrollment numbers in school meal programs and decrease the stigma around free school meals.