No More Lunch Shaming, Candidates on National Service, and Other Policy Updates

Farm to school bills are under consideration, a new bill attempts to end “lunch shaming,” and 2020 presidential candidates address the importance of national service. Here are your July policy updates: 

Child Nutrition Reauthorization Update

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced a number of bills as Congress continues to look at reauthorizing child nutrition programs. The goal for many of these bills is not that they pass individually, but that their specific provisions be incorporated into a much larger, comprehensive child nutrition bill that would be passed by the House and Senate later this session. 

Here are a few school-meals-related bills we’re tracking:

Farm to School

Farm to school programs are proven successful in helping students eat more healthy food, expanding market opportunities for family farmers, and developing stronger local and regional food economies. Two recently introduced bills would support and strengthen farm to school efforts:

  • Farm to School Act of 2019: This bill would increase the funding for USDA’s popular and highly competitive Farm to School Grant Program. Currently funded at $5 million annually, this bill expands funding to $15 million and includes provisions to:
    • Increase the maximum grant award to $250,000;
    • Prioritize grant proposals that engage beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and serve high-need schools;
    • Fully include early care and education sites, summer food service sites, and after school programs; and
    • Increase access among Native and tribal schools to traditional foods, especially from tribal producers.
  • Kids Eat Local Act: Mentioned in our last update, this bill would make local sourcing easier for schools by enabling them to specifically prioritize “local” in their procurement.

Modernizing School Kitchens

FoodCorps also supports the School Food Modernization Act, legislation that would help schools update their kitchens with new infrastructure and equipment needed to prepare delicious and healthy meals.

No More Lunch Shaming

Lastly, the issue of school “lunch shaming” has unfortunately been in the news too frequently in recent months. FoodCorps supports the No Shame at School Act, a bill that would ban identification of students who cannot pay for lunch at school through means such as stamps, wristbands, or being served different food. The bill would also ensure more eligible children are certified for free or reduced-price school meals and provide schools retroactive meal reimbursement for certified students. These provisions help students by ending the stigmatizing practice of singling out kids who can’t afford school lunch, and they help schools facing lunch debt with some financial support.

National Service in Congress and on the Presidential Trail

Identical bills introduced in the Senate and House would increase investments and expand national service opportunities in a variety of ways. The ACTION for National Service Act would:

  • Set a goal of one million annual national service positions, to be achieved ten years after the bill is signed into law;
  • Give individuals who complete one year of national service an educational award equivalent to two years of in-state public college tuition, and to those who complete two years of service, an award equivalent to four years of tuition;
  • Elevate the Corporation for National and Community Service to a cabinet-level, independent agency;
  • Make national service education benefits and living stipends free from federal taxation;
  • Increase access to national service opportunities by raising living stipend amounts; and
  • Create a 21st Century American Service Outreach Program that will notify eligible individuals starting at age 17 about opportunities to serve in national service programs and how to register. 

Meanwhile, several presidential candidates on the campaign trail have discussed expanding national service as one of their priorities. In recent months, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Rep. John Delaney, and Rep. Seth Moulton have discussed different proposals that would expand national service.

One organization, Serve America Together, is pushing to elevate national service as a top issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. In this clip, two co-chairs of the initiative — former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and retired General Stan McChrystal — discuss the importance of national service for its ability to not only provide meaningful personal and professional development, but also bring people together.