January 2018 Policy Update

Welcome to 2018 – it’s going to be a busy policy year!  In D.C., we anticipate continued advocacy around AmeriCorps funding (more on that below) and Congress will continue debating and drafting the reauthorization of the Farm Bill, which includes some important priorities for FoodCorps.  We’ll also be monitoring actions at USDA, and engaging as needed (see the school meal update below).  And, last but not least, we look forward to engaging on exciting opportunities at the state and local level, such as the proposal from New York’s governor described below.

AmeriCorps Funding

Congress has still not finalized its spending bill for Fiscal Year 2018.  In the last weeks of 2017, Congress passed a short term extension of government funding that runs out on January 19.  We’re working with our friends at Voices for National Service to monitor developments in this process.  As you recall, the Trump Administration’s budget called for eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service, but, thanks to strong advocacy, both the Senate and House Appropriations committees approved bills that provide level funding for national service.  We’ll be monitoring the conclusion of the FY18 funding process while also keeping an eye out for the forthcoming President’s budget for FY19.  

USDA School Meal Updates

Back in May, newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Perdue, in one of his first actions in office, announced a relaxation of school nutrition standards.  Specifically, Secretary Perdue called for easing standards on sodium and whole grains and allowing higher fat, flavored milk to be served in schools.  At the time, FoodCorps issued a response expressing our disagreement with this action.  In late November, USDA published an interim final rule that implements these changes for school year 2018-19.  This rule also solicits comments from stakeholders for how to proceed in school year 2019-20 and beyond.  We will be working with other nutrition advocates to put together comments that emphasize the need to promote children’s health and well-being, continue progress in improving school meals, and not take steps backward on kids health.  

It is important from USDA to hear from as many people as possible who want to see us maintain this progress!  We will be in touch in the coming weeks with sample comments for you to submit.

New York Governor Cuomo Announces “No Student Goes Hungry” Proposal for 2018 State of the State

FoodCorps joined American Farmland Trust, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and a number of other organizations in applauding Governor Cuomo’s proposal to improve school nutrition and connect more kids to healthy, locally-produced food.  The Governor’s proposal includes doubling the state’s investment in farm-to-school projects, increasing the state reimbursement for schools that source local ingredients, eliminating lunch shaming, and expanding breakfast after the bell.  Check out this press release from American Farmland Trust with supporting statements from many organizations, including FoodCorps.