A smiling FoodCorps service member, with dark skin and dark curly hair tied back in a headband, holds a blue tray of snack cups in front of a table of students.
Tamara Lewis (CT ‘17) serves up a taste test in a cafeteria in Connecticut, where the governor has recently enacted a host of new school meals policies.

In the first half of 2023, FoodCorps saw several policy wins both at the state and federal levels. Here are some of the highlights we are celebrating as we look forward to more victories over the next few months.

USDA announces proposed rules for food in schools

Some background: FoodCorps has been working with the Biden-Harris Administration essentially since President Joe Biden’s inauguration to advance food and education equity. This collaboration reached a peak in September 2022, when FoodCorps was invited to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, where we announced our $250 million Nourishing Futures initiative.

In March, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack followed up on the Conference by announcing:

  • $50 million in grants to increase collaboration among schools, food producers and suppliers, and other partners to improve the quality of school meals; 
  • $10 million in grants to expand nutrition education; and
  • A proposed rule that would expand opportunities for states to provide healthy school meals for all. 

Learn more about these proposed rules.

White House announces challenge to end hunger

The Biden-Harris Administration followed the USDA announcement with a challenge to the nation endeavoring to end hunger and diet-related diseases by 2030. 

There are five pillars to this new national strategy:

  • Improve food access and affordability;
  • Integrate nutrition and health;
  • Empower all consumers to make and have access to healthier choices;
  • Support physical activity for all; and
  • Enhance nutrition and food security research.

Learn more about how FoodCorps supports the Administration’s goals.

New Mexico unanimously passes free School Meals for All

In early March, New Mexico passed School Meals for All, granting all students the ability to receive school meals for free. FoodCorps supported this historic win by organizing a sign-on campaign—gathering support from 50+ partner organizations—and organizing local support and media coverage. 

As school districts struggle with students no longer receiving free meals and the resulting debt that families face, New Mexico is a beacon demonstrating how to create solutions. Other states that passed laws enacting this important priority in 2023 include Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and Vermont

Read on to learn about the process of enacting free school meals in New Mexico.

Connecticut makes strides in food education and school meals

In June, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed a suite of supportive school food policies into law. With leadership from FoodCorps and New Britain ROOTS and working in partnership with the CT Farm to School Collaborative and the School Meals for All CT Coalition, Connecticut committed to:

  • $1 million investment in the CT Grown for CT Kids Grants Program per year for FY24 and FY25. This represents more than a 100% increase in funding for the program. 
  • The creation of a CT Local Food for Schools Incentive Program. The structure of the program was created by FoodCorps and partners, and was adopted by the legislature. It provides partial reimbursement for school districts that purchase food grown in and around Connecticut.
  • $16 million investment to support free school meals. This is a step forward in the pursuit of stigma- and shame-free access to nutritious school meals for all Connecticut students.

FoodCorps starts congressional site visits

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, visited Drew Farm, a FoodCorps service site in Detroit. The senator spent over an hour talking with members of the FoodCorps team and our allies in Detroit, and having fun with students. She participated in a veggie pasta salad taste test and talked to the kids about their food preferences. She also helped another group of students plant corn.

While it was certainly more fun than a committee hearing, Sen. Stabenow also learned about what challenges face Detroit’s schools when it comes to feeding kids and listened to examples of successes in dealing with our top priority.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year

Congress is in recess through August, but when they return, we are hoping the Farm Bill passes with a strong nutrition section that includes protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Students from families who are enrolled in SNAP automatically qualify for free school meals, so a reduction in SNAP usage could mean fewer kids being fed.

We are also engaging with congressional offices about our key policy priorities, ensuring students have access to the nourishment they need during the school day. One program we are promoting is the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. This provides a fresh fruit or vegetable snack to select elementary students who attend schools where over 50% of the student body receives free or reduced-price lunches. Providing students access to a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables combined helps students try — and enjoy! — more nourishing foods and gives them the fuel they need to thrive in the classroom. 

Finally, we are looking forward to engaging with you more over the next six months. We will continue to keep you posted through our website and social media and will share opportunities for you to take action in service of our 2030 goal. To be the first to hear about a new opportunity, sign up for our email list.