Happy Farm to School Month! As we continue counting down to the election and celebrate the value of farm to school efforts across communities, here are the policy updates you need this month.
This election season, #VoteForSchoolFood with FoodCorps’ Voter Guide
With less than two weeks until Election Day, millions of voters have already cast their absentee and mail-in ballots. While this election season feels like no other because of the COVID-19 safety measures in place, one thing remains true: your vote matters.
Your elected officials make decisions that affect students’ well-being—in and out of the cafeteria. That means you have a say in shaping kids’ access to food in your community. That’s why we’re excited to share the FoodCorps Voter Guide, a new tool to help you make informed decisions at the ballot box. Use this guide to learn about the policies that affect kids’ health and ask your candidates about their positions on the issues.
Federal school food policy wins, challenges, and what’s ahead
While election season is in full swing, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in many parts of the country. All the while, more than 4 in 10 children live in households struggling to afford basic necessities including food, and families of color continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the economic and health impacts of the pandemic. What are federal lawmakers doing about it? Here’s a quick recap to help make sense of where we are on federal policies.
Key child nutrition policies recently signed into law at the federal level:
- Schools can continue serving free school meals through the rest of the school year: After immense pressure from advocates, Congress authorized and the USDA implemented an extension of critical school meal waivers through September 30, 2021. This waiver extension allows for consistency in meal distribution for both school nutrition professionals and families relying on school meals for the rest of the school year, which is critical for ensuring all kids stay nourished.
- Schools can continue to have flexibility to keep feeding kids during COVID-19, regardless of what the school day looks like: Many of the important school meal waivers have been extended through the end of the school year.
- Low-income families will continue to have access to the pandemic food aid program: Pandemic EBT has been expanded and extended through September 30, 2021. The program, authorized by Congress in March when schools shut down nationwide, has provided millions of low-income families with grocery dollars for kids who rely on free or reduced-price meals. Despite administrative hurdles faced by state officials, Pandemic EBT has proven to be successful and effective in nourishing families and kids.
These advocacy wins would not have happened without strong support from advocates like you—thank you! So many of you spoke up to demand these actions, and your voice is making a big difference for kids and families across the nation.
Key policy areas where Congress is falling short:
- Funding support for school nutrition operations: A recent survey conducted by the School Nutrition Association showcases the severe financial losses school nutrition programs nationwide have incurred, highlighting the need for immediate financial relief from Congress. Although the House passed the HEROES Act in May, which included $3 billion in funding for school nutrition programs, the legislation has not been considered by the Senate.
- Boost in SNAP benefits for low-income families: A provision to increase maximum SNAP benefits by 15% is included in the House’s most recent proposal, but the proposal to strengthen this effective nutrition assistance program has been repeatedly rejected by the Republican leadership.
- Strengthening national service programs: The CORPS Act—which would expand AmeriCorps programs and increase compensation for service members—has gained strong support from bipartisan legislators, and national service advocates are hoping that the bill will be included in the next stimulus package.
So, what’s next? It has been over half a year since Congress passed the last round of stimulus packages known as the CARES Act. Is more help on the way and when? As we’ve reported previously, congressional leaders have been in months of back-and-forth negotiations on additional COVID-19 relief measures, with little progress. Unfortunately, it appears the future of the next relief package remains unclear. Federal lawmakers may try again to pass additional COVID-19 aids after the election. Sign up for FoodCorps policy alerts and we will let you know when to raise your voice.
Related read: Celebrating National School Lunch Week (FRAC)
Michigan expands farm to school incentive program statewide
Last month, the Michigan legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved $2 million in funding to expand the popular and successful 10 Cents A Meal grant program—the nation’s leading farm to school incentive program. Now school districts statewide and early childhood centers can apply for match incentive funding up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and legumes. This exciting policy win is a result of many years of advocacy led by our friends at Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and 10 Cents A Meal campaign partners.
FoodCorps is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. FoodCorps staff and FoodCorps AmeriCorps members may not participate in any partisan or seemingly partisan activities during work time charged to a Corporation for National and Community Service funded grant or while earning AmeriCorps service hours. No federal funds were used to prepare or distribute these advocacy actions.