After years of waiting, 2021 may be the year when legislators take on the next child nutrition reauthorization, or CNR.
CNR is the process in which Congress updates laws that govern all child nutrition programs, including school lunch and breakfast, summer meals, after-school meals, and more. (Learn more about CNR here.) While CNR usually occurs every five years, the last time Congress reauthorized these programs was in 2010, when it passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 created the Farm to School Grant Program, which kickstarted a powerful movement for farm to school, food education, and local food. The result has been fresher, high quality food in meals, school food dollars staying in their local economies, and children excited to eat new and healthy foods.
FoodCorps and two of our partners, National Farm to School Network and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, are working to build support for four recently introduced marker bills that will support healthy kids and healthy schools and build on the progress of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act: Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act, Farm to School Act of 2021, Kids Eat Local Act, and School Food Modernization Act.
Together, these complementary bills provide crucial support for schools, farmers, and underserved communities in rebuilding equitably from the pandemic while building on the progress we have made in connecting students with healthy food in schools.
Let’s learn a little more about each of these bills and why they should be included in the next CNR.
Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act (S. 1421)
Original Cosponsors: Sen. Booker (D-NY) and Sen. Cornyn (R-TX)
This bill directs the USDA to establish a pilot program to hire staff in schools to provide hands-on food and nutrition education.
Food and nutrition educators in schools increase children’s acceptance and enjoyment of the nutritious, tasty meals they are offered in schools, setting them up to make healthy choices for life. When hands-on food education is integrated as a part of a school day, it can have significant impacts on students’ nutritional, emotional, and educational well-being.
Farm to School Act of 2021 (S. 1328, H.R. 1768)
Original Cosponsors: Sen. Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Brown (D-OH), and Sen. Collins (R-ME); Del. Plaskett (D-VI), Rep. Fortenberry (R-NE), and Rep. Adams (D-NC)
This bill triples funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, prioritizing applications that engage beginning, veteran, and socially disadvantaged farmers and serve racially diverse and high-need student populations.
The popular Farm to School Grant Program has empowered thousands of children to learn about where their food comes from. Every dollar spent on local food generates up to an additional $2.16 in economic activity, indicating school districts’ local food purchases can lead to over $1 billion in local economic activity, according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census.
Kids Eat Local Act of 2021 (S. 1401, H.R. 2896)
Original Cosponsors: Sen. Brown (D-OH), Sen. Collins (R-ME); Rep Pingree (D-ME), Rep. Fortenberry (R-ME), Rep. Adams (D-NC), Rep. Harder (D-CA)
The Kids Eat Local Act will support farm to school efforts by making it easier for schools to source locally grown, locally raised and locally caught food and farm products for their meal programs.
Currently, schools are not able to specifically ask for “local” products in their food procurement requests. A geographic preference option is available, but many school food service providers find it burdensome and confusing to implement.
School Food Modernization Act of 2021 (S. 876)
Original Cosponsors: Sen. Collins (R-ME), Sen. Smith (D-MN)
This bill authorizes funding for schools to purchase equipment, improve kitchen infrastructure, and train staff to make it easier for schools to deliver healthy and fresh foods.
Even before the pandemic, the majority of schools report needing school kitchen infrastructure improvements. To ensure that schools can prepare healthy, nutritious and fresh foods, schools need additional funding to modernize their kitchen infrastructure.
What you can do
Congress needs to hear from you! We need your help to ensure these provisions are included in the next child nutrition reauthorization. Join us in raising your voice and urge your members of Congress to cosponsor legislation that supports healthy kids and healthy schools!