How Hawai‘i is Improving Its Farm to Early Care and Education Landscape with Its First Farm to ECE Coordinator

NFSN Staff
October 19, 2022

By Jasmin Edrington, Program Fellow

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) was put into place in 1992. Since then, it has aided many SNAP-eligible and low-income communities in increasing access to healthy food, food education, physical activity and more through farm to school initiatives. SNAP-Ed dollars are typically distributed from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to state Department of Human Services (DHS), who then distribute funds to implementing agencies in their state. These can be state or county agencies, but can also include tribal or community organizations. In Hawai‘i, the Hawai‘i Department of Health’s (DOH) Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division (CDPHPD) is one of two SNAP-Ed implementing agencies. 

In partnership with the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute (HIPHI), CDPHPD is leveraging their state’s SNAP-Ed funding in a new and unique way—they have used the funds to hire a part-time statewide Farm to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECE) Coordinator, David Seegal. David brings a wide range of experience working directly with children as a primary educator and a cook—this firsthand knowledge allows him to bring a rich perspective to the work. 

As a staff member dedicated to policy, systems, and environmental change in farm to ECE, David Seegal will be able to increase capacity to grow Hawai‘i's farm to ECE work. Farm to ECE programming in Hawai‘i has been ongoing informally for many years, thanks to ECE champions across the state, county, and community levels. In 2017, the inaugural Hawai‘i Farm to ECE Coalition formed to better coordinate and expand the existing statewide farm to ECE work. Until now, the coalition has been led by various passionate volunteers, in addition to their full-time staff. 

Photos of Hawai‘i’s farm to ECE programs, courtesy of the Hawai‘i Farm to ECE coalition. 

Hawai‘i’s Farm to ECE Landscape 

Like many states, Hawai‘i's farm to ECE movement has grown in the shadow of a robust farm to school movement, which promotes three core elements in K-12 schools: local procurement, school gardens, and nutrition education. However, Hawai‘i faces unique challenges due to its complex ECE mixed delivery system and island make-up—these features make it harder to break down silos, establish partnerships with ECE providers, and identify sustainable funding for farm to ECE programming and implementation. 

According to Kristy Sakai, the Administrator at Chaminade University Montessori Lab School, less than 10% of Hawai‘i's ECE settings are public. This leads to a high demand for, but low access to, affordable, high-quality child care. The privatization of ECE also means that it can be difficult to embed farm to ECE programming statewide without the central point of contact that many K-12 schools have. Additionally, each of Hawai‘i’s seven inhabited island’s ECE system functions differently because of the unique political structure, available resources, and staff capacity on each island. Kristy explained that “the system is so fragmented…which means not just different sites, [but] different training…the training levels for early childhood providers goes from no formal training all the way up to advanced degrees.”

Hawai‘i is also unique because of the rich culture of Indigenous Peoples. Kristy acknowledges that all farm to school and ECE work must respect and be rooted in the culture and customs of Native communities. As the Farm to ECE Coordinator, David will help enhance the equity work already being done in each community. “Land usage issues, fighting bureaucratic red tape, and grappling with the forces that otherwise affect Hawai‘i make it difficult for local communities to have agency and sovereignty over how they feed themselves,” David expressed. Despite this, David hopes to create partnerships, leverage information, and show people how they fit into the bigger picture, ultimately creating a better system and environment for farm to ECE initiatives. 

Bringing on David will allow for increased capacity for strategic planning about how to address these barriers, while supporting each island’s farm to ECE needs and advancing policy, systems, and environmental change from the ground up. 

Hawai‘i’s First Farm to ECE Coordinator 

The decision to hire a staff member dedicated to coordinating the farm to ECE work in Hawai‘i was crucial in ensuring that the work will be sufficiently prioritized. Early childhood care and education work, in general, is often inadvertently neglected. Many mistakenly assume that young children are included when discussing issues around schools and school meals, when in fact, they often fall under a different administering authority and child nutrition program than K-12 children. Early education is just as important as K-12 education—David will serve as an important advocate that will make sure all young children have access to nourishing food and food education. 

David Seegal, Hawai‘i’s first Farm to ECE Coordinator

Starting a new job is difficult for anyone, but the absence of a roadmap has made the process even more challenging for Hawai‘i’s first Farm to ECE Coordinator. David, along with the help of many others, will have to face the challenge of figuring out what his position means and where to focus his efforts. The vision of the role is a coordinator between ECE settings and programs, farm to school programs, non-profits, food producers, and government agencies to improve communication, strengthen partnerships, and increase farm to ECE programming in Hawai‘i. 

Despite the inevitable challenges with setting up a position for the first time, Hawai‘i ECE stakeholders are excited to have David’s passionate, people-centered, and inclusive leadership at the helm, guiding the work of the Hawai‘i Farm to ECE coalition. 

Implementing Farm to ECE with SNAP-Ed Funding 

SNAP-Ed funding has been critical to growing the farm to ECE work in Hawai‘i. Farm to School & ECE and ECE settings are recognized by SNAP-Ed as evidence-based interventions and settings to increase opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity for young children. This alignment with SNAP-Ed makes farm to ECE programming and staffing an ideal project to be included in a state’s SNAP-Ed plan and budget. 

Jordan Smith, SNAP-Ed Coordinator TA at the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, provides insight on how she helped secure funding for this new role and advice for those looking to do the same. 

First, Jordan encourages establishing a relationship with your state’s SNAP-Ed coordinator(s) and/or implementing agencies. Each state’s coordinator can be found on the USDA SNAP-Ed Connection website. Reach out to your state’s coordinator to learn more about your state’s SNAP-Ed needs assessment, SNAP-Ed State Plan, or the SNAP-Ed administration goals to “get a better sense if ECE is on their radar or a priority activity.” She clarifies that each state will be very different when it comes to forming this relationship. She was lucky to share an office with DOH’s SNAP-Ed Coordinator at the time and have ECE already included as a priority area and community in Hawai‘i’s SNAP-Ed plan. In areas without the same situation, intentional networking will be required to build a relationship with the coordinator. Conversations with SNAP-Ed coordinators and/or implementing agencies to learn about their motives and goals will help to gain buy-in and build needed relationships. 

For states looking to create their own Farm to ECE Coordinator role, it’s also helpful to get acquainted with SNAP-Ed plans and coordinator goals. This can assist in building a vision for the role by identifying the specific needs in your state that a Farm to ECE Coordinator can address. Jordan suggests considering whether the role needs to be part-time or full time, what the coordinator will be able to improve, whether additional funding for activities will be needed, the time frame for the position, and where the position should be housed (a state agency, a non-profit, etc.). All of these considerations help clarify the kind of commitment being made by the implementing agencies when hiring.

Finally, researching state SNAP-Ed plans and speaking with a SNAP-Ed Coordinator helps to ensure that hiring a Farm to ECE Coordinator fits into your state’s priorities. Jordan explains that the Fiscal Year ‘23 SNAP-Ed guide provides a helpful “overview of SNAP-Ed, what activities are approved under SNAP-Ed, and the requirements for a project or position to be funded by SNAP-Ed.” Pitches should include evidence-based research that supports the implementation of the position and how the position will align with SNAP-Ed’s overarching goals. The SNAP-Ed toolkit can help align farm to ECE language with SNAP-Ed language. Jordan also advises being strategic about the timing of the proposal. SNAP-Ed plans are written every 3 years and submitted in the spring, so one of the best times to bring this up is before a new plan is written. 

Though this was an interesting and difficult experience, Kristy, Jordan, and David have all learned a few things. David mentions that early childhood education is unique, and we must recognize the intricacies of teaching kids at such a young age. He emphasizes that farm to ECE is deeper than putting on a “puppet show about carrots”—it’s about “creating a foundation for a healthy society.” It is vital to recognize the importance of ECE, which is often pushed aside. Jordan agreed, saying that we have to “root for farm to ECE in the bigger picture. [Farm to ECE can often be viewed as] ‘trivial’ or ‘additional’, but there is only a small window to impact a child’s lifelong behavior and eating habits.” 

Jordan also gives great advice when it comes to starting new projects: “You should not sacrifice progress for perfection. You just have to go for it and adapt and change as you go.” And finally, Kristy underscores the importance of recognizing your own value and the value in the voices of others. “[We must all strive to] pull up a seat to the table for yourself and others to be able to accomplish great things.” 

Thank you to our 2022 Farm to School Month Sponsors, Farm Credit, CoBank, and National Co+op Grocers, for supporting this work.

National Farm to School Network Applauds the Biden-Harris Administration for Recognizing Crucial Role of School Meals in Improving Child Nutrition and Hunger

NFSN Staff
September 28, 2022

By Miguel Villarreal and Karen Spangler

For the first time in 50 years, the White House is leading a summit on hunger, nutrition, and health to tackle hunger and diet-related diseases in America. National Farm to School Network is excited and grateful to be at this summit to discuss transformative change, which will include topics like food as medicine, promoting physical activity, childhood nutrition, public-private partnerships, and equity.

Yesterday, the Biden-Harris administration released its National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. We were delighted to see that school meals are prioritized in this strategy: “The Biden-Harris administration will advance a pathway to free healthy school meals for all, working with Congress to expand access to healthy, free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032.” The strategy also calls for farm to school activities such as local purchasing, nutrition education, and scratch cooking as “essential components” of the effort. 

 “The Biden-Harris administration will advance a pathway to free healthy school meals for all, working with Congress to expand access to healthy, free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032.”

On behalf of the National Farm to School Network, we applaud and thank the administration for recognizing the crucial role of school meals in improving child nutrition and hunger. This strategy of farm to school and child nutrition hits multiple values and returns on investment for hunger, nutrition, and health with one government program that already exists. It is straightforward and effective.

However, just days after the conference concludes, schools and families across the nation will still be faced with the unfortunate reality: the special child nutrition waivers that have kept hundreds of thousands of students out of hunger through the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire on September 30. 

The child nutrition waivers introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic offered every child, regardless of economic status, the ability to receive a meal at no charge throughout the pandemic. The program also allowed schools greater flexibility to prepare and serve meals and reduced the lengthy administrative paperwork required for distributing millions of school meals. 

School districts across the country are still facing challenges in keeping their programs viable as we “return to normal” after the pandemic. Record inflation, higher than at any point since the early 1980s, has impacted prices across the board and the supply chain continues to experience unprecedented challenges. Right now, in America, too many families are choosing between feeding their children nutritious food and paying for other vital expenses. The most recent national data estimates 12 percent of households with children—that’s 1 in 8 kids—experience food insecurity. 

If we can’t act on extending the waivers—and the signs are not good—then there’s still another big opportunity to do the right thing by hungry children: improve and strengthen child nutrition and school meal programs by acting on Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). The CNR process usually happens every five years. But the last time Congress acted on this was more than a decade ago. This means schools and meal providers are working with outdated regulations that don’t reflect the current needs of children and families. Thankfully, the recent version of the CNR passed by the House Education and Labor Committee is extremely promising

Following this week’s Summit, Congress has an opportunity to act on behalf of school food service programs. If Congress advances the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, we have an important opportunity—the first in a decade—to leverage federal farm-to-school and other child nutrition policies to shift power towards a more just food system. We are hopeful that the Biden-Harris administration’s national strategy will begin to tackle this issue, and we urge Congress to work closely with the administration to recognize the urgency and importance of a national free healthy school meals for all policy.

Policy change happens because people dedicate their time and attention to educating and urging legislators to recognize needs in order to make critical changes for the people within their communities. Everyone, not just lobbyists, can advocate for fairness in the food system. National Farm to School Network is proud to be one of many organizations in this endeavor. We will take this opportunity to advocate for positive and sustainable change on behalf of our nation’s children and families and hope to do this together with you.

Miguel Villarreal is the Interim Co-Executive Director at National Farm to School Network.

Karen Spangler is the Policy Director at National Farm to School Network

NFSN Welcomes Interim Co-Executive Directors Jessica Gudmundson and Miguel Villarreal

NFSN Staff
September 19, 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(September 19, 2022, Petaluma, CA and Atlanta, GA) — National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is excited to introduce its new Interim Co-Executive Directors. Jessica Gudmundson, who has been part of NFSN since its inception, and Miguel Villarreal, who previously served as Chair for NFSN's Advisory Board, are taking the mantle as co-leaders at NFSN.

Why a Co-Leadership Model?

NFSN identified its Call to Action in 2019 and has since been taking action to move this call forward. NFSN recognizes its own power and influence and is taking the necessary steps to do power-shifting work both externally and internally. The model of leadership is one crucial part of this and NFSN has been interested in implementing it. With the opportunity for an Interim Executive Director, it is the right time to bring this model into practice to decentralize decision-making, make more capacity for leadership by drawing on the strengths of the co-leaders and live the Call to Action.

The vision behind co-leadership is to increase the ability to be responsive to stakeholders through centering relationships/collaboration in the way that we work and what we value. With a vast network across the country already doing amazing work, NFSN has made strides to build this collective action, and this is the next step for what NFSN wants to accomplish. Villarreal says, "we hope to model this for staff and partners because at its core, farm to school is all about collaboration."

While NFSN does not claim to be an authority or expert on all things equity-related, NFSN is committed to the work to reduce harm and shift power. Through its experiences, NFSN is continually shifting internal practices to better reflect its Call to Action. Through the team's relationships with people, NFSN holds firm to its accountability to others, and the team is humbled to support and lift the power held in communities.

Advisory Board Chair Sommer Sibilly says, "as we work to shift and share power we need to become comfortable building relationships and leading together. I personally see this as a demonstration of our commitment to that." The Advisory Board is excited to welcome the two Interim Co-EDs knowing they have the experience and care necessary to move NFSN forward and build this collective work with partners.

About Jessica Gudmundson

Gudmundson brings 17+ years of experience running organizational finance, policy and operations. Regarding her personal connection to the work, she shares, "as someone who grew up in a home that didn't always have food, making sure kids are fed and valued through food is important to me." Villarreal shares his excitement to work with Gudmundson, "I cannot think of someone more capable to work alongside as Co-ED than Jessica."

About Miguel Villarreal

Villarreal brings 30+ years of experience as a Food Service Director. During his tenure, he implemented farm to school initiatives while building a vast network of local, state and national stakeholders to advance those efforts. Gudmundson shares, "When the idea of co-leadership was discussed, I was excited at the opportunity to work with Miguel again. We balance each other very well and bring different perspectives and skills that allow both of us the freedom and support to make real and helpful impacts in our roles."

Looking Ahead. Working Together.

Gudmundson and Villarreal shared that their vision is to create the conditions where all the incredible leaders in this work can be successful and make sure their impact is realized, valued, supported and encouraged. Gudmundson says, "I'm always inspired by the people in this work: Staff members, our network partners, and other individuals and organizations who are in this work. I see so much value in the people and the work that's already happening."

Advisory Board Vice-Chair Laura Edwards-Orr says, "I'm so pleased to welcome Jessica and Miguel as Interim Co-Executive Directors of the Network. As long-time leaders in the movement in their own rights, this partnership weaves together decades of complementary experience within a structure that is grounded in our desire to shift power and uplift the tremendous talents of the entire National Farm to School Network team. I look forward to working with both Jessica and Miguel in the months to come."

Together, Gudmundson and Villarreal will join together with staff and partners to implement the Call to Action. They will work together with the Advisory Board in the Executive Director Search, making sure that the vision is carried forward. Through partnering with the many incredible leaders in this work, building community power and taking collective action, NFSN looks forward to seeing this work come to fruition.

GroMoreGood Hydroponics Project: Outcomes, Highlights, and More!

NFSN Staff
August 15, 2022

By Jasmin Edrington, NFSN Program Fellow

In the 2020-2021 school year, Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG) partnered with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) to send 15 hydroponics garden systems to schools across the country. This project came with great success and has been renewed for a second year to provide another 25 schools with the opportunity to enhance their farm-to-school education with the indoor hydroponics garden. 

The GroMoreGood Hydroponics project has helped teachers to educate their students on the topics of food, agriculture, science, and plant growth, but also underscored the importance of community, responsibility, and teamwork — all while having a lot of fun! This hands-on experience has changed the lives of students and teachers as well as increased their love for gardening, science, and healthy eating. 

This opportunity has brought enrichment into many teachers’ curriculum. The participating teachers have always loved to teach about science and with the Discovering Through Hydroponics curriculum, they were able to enhance the learning experience and offered great perspectives about growing plants. Hands-on learning opportunities increase students’ interest in the subject. Teachers have incorporated the hydroponics garden into science lesson plans about life cycles and the parts of plants. At Klamath County, Brittany Rodriquez was able to connect their taste tests to math by “requiring students to convert, and multiply, measurements for recipes.” Many have brought the excitement about the garden into their writing classes, allowing students to strengthen both their language and science skills. At Thunderbolt Elementary School, Tracy Johnston showed her students a documentary about bees, connecting bees to pollination and plant growth and tying it back to their hydroponics system. These connections have created a better understanding of how nature is all connected.

The hydroponics garden has equipped teachers with a vessel through which they can teach their students about responsibility and teamwork. The students have a sense of pride in the hydroponics garden and are often eager to take care of it or plan something new. Students at Poinciana, for example, are highly dedicated to taking care of the hydroponics garden. Even when the teacher, Sherry Ashley, was not there, students watered the hydroponics garden when it was looking dry and sometimes took a few extra leaves to eat in between classes. Alice Burns, a teacher at Bancroft Elementary School shared that the hydroponics garden has taught her students “care and responsibility of a living organism” and says that her students “took pride and felt connected by caring for the garden.” The hydroponics garden has encouraged students to work together to create something beautiful, therefore strengthening their cooperation and communication skills.

Kelly Jensen, from Manuel Lito Peña Jr. School, has 100 students in her after school garden club, where students eagerly attend to learn more about plants, gardening, and healthy eating and want to start their own gardens at home. These students take extra time out of their day to come to her after school program, proving their genuine excitement about the subject. She leads highly scientific discussions, inspiring students to experiment on their own. As many students at Manuel Lito Peña are of lower income families, not everyone has the means to start their own high-tech hydroponics garden at home. This has led to discussion about how families can grow healthy foods in their homes without fancy equipment, encouraging students to be creative and innovative to bring the joy of gardening to their own homes. Many other teachers have also noticed the students’ eagerness to bring what they’ve learned back home.

Students at Thunderbolt Elementary sampling the salad greens from the hydroponics system and taking care of the produce using their pollinator.

For many of the students, coming into the classroom with the hydroponics garden is the highlight of their day. Students are excited to come to school and excited to come to class. Tracy Johnston at Thunderbolt Elementary says that students always come running into her classroom asking “What are we eating today?” Students are itching to play with the hydroponics garden and are enthusiastic about trying healthy foods. “My students beg to be able to taste tomatoes, to eat salad, and to drink green shakes!!” says Tracy. Many students involved in this project are located in food deserts, meaning they do not always have access to affordable and nutritious food. And even the students who do have access to these foods didn’t always like to eat them. Throughout the project, multiple teachers have seen specific improvements in students who disliked fruits and vegetables who have transformed into veggie lovers and advocates of healthy eating. Many students have convinced their parents to use more vegetables and cook healthier meals. At North Andrews Gardens Elementary, the lettuce is growing so quickly that they have delicious lettuce to eat every week and hosted a salad bar using lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs grown in the hydroponics garden as well as some of the students other favorite toppings! She has also noticed that many students who used to dislike salad or didn’t care about healthy eating have started to enjoy the lettuce grown in the hydroponics garden and are more excited about making healthier choices. At Fairfield Elementary, the fully grown hydroponics garden excites the students and attracts teachers looking for healthy greens to add to their lunches.

Students at Fairfield Elementary learn together about Plant Science and how to build their hydroponics system.

The benefits of classroom gardening have impacted the lives of the students and teachers at the participating schools, allowing them to deepen their understanding of plants, increase their access to fresh food, and further develop their social emotional skills. The National Farm to School Network and Scotts Miracle-Gro are so happy that these 15 schools were able to participate in this program and are excited to see how the schools continue to use their gardens in the future!

Opinion: Nutrition waivers are needed to keep feeding hungry students in South Bay this fall

NFSN Staff
July 27, 2022

By Eric Span

Eric Span is the Director of Nutrition Services at Sweetwater Union High School District and lives in Chula Vista.

"Running the second largest secondary school district nutrition program in California during a pandemic — impacted by supply and staffing shortages — has had its challenges and its wins. The last two years stretched everyone across the nation and world, but despite many challenges, here in the Sweetwater Union High School District, located in Chula Vista, the seventh-largest city in Southern California, we successfully served 8.74 million meals to our students.

During the pandemic, Congress provided relief by passing special child nutrition waivers, which allowed schools more flexibility in service and meal preparation, in addition to reducing the administrative paperwork that comes with distributing meals to millions of students. We are hopeful Congress will extend the waivers that expire this week as the food supply chain is still experiencing challenges.

Last year in California, the Healthy School Meals for All legislation was passed. This means the state will cover the cost of two nutritious meals each day for all children beginning in the 2022-23 school year. Just as every child receives a textbook, each will receive a meal as well with hopes to reduce hunger and remove stigma for students in accessing meals. It is my dream that this becomes a national initiative. Our children are worth it!

There is no better way to unify than around a lunch table. And, in a country as great as America, there should be no barriers for students to learning. Those include at the lunch table."

Read the full op-ed at The San Diego Tribune

Opinion: The cost of a lunch should not stand in the way of Colorado schoolchildren

NFSN Staff
June 20, 2022

By Tanna Schut

Tanna Schut is a parent and advocate located in Pueblo, Colorado

"Here’s why we should cover the costs of school lunch for all children. Right now, kids who do qualify for free school lunches would, once again, face stigma in the lunch line. Healthy School Meals for All will remove that stigma and make sure more students get the food they need. It also will mean more students do better in school. Schools could spend less money on meal administrative costs and spend more money on nutritional and kitchen staffing.

Groups like the National Farm to School Network have been campaigning to ensure that our school meals are aligned with values like economic justice and respecting workers and educators. The measures in Colorado will lead the way, nationally, on these issues, and inspire states across the country to follow suit. Schools will be able to provide healthy meals and do more scratch cooking.

They’ll also get money to train their canteen staff in how to do it, which is an important step. I like the idea of our schools working with local farmers to source local ingredients. It will help strengthen Colorado’s economy as well as student health.

I’m glad schools are shifting their thinking about the lunches we serve our children. There’s more parent and student input, and we’re raising our voices to say healthy, local food is important to us.

Assuring healthy meals for all schoolchildren will mean one less thing standing in the way of our children’s future, so all our children can succeed."

Read the full op-ed at The Colorado Sun

Schools should avail of state funding to serve more freshly prepared and locally grown food

NFSN Staff
May 25, 2022

By Brandy Dreibelbis

Brandy Dreibelbis is the Senior Director of School Operations at Chef Ann Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting whole-ingredient, scratch-cooking in schools. This approach enables schools to serve the healthiest, tastiest meals so that kids are well-fed and ready to learn.

"Through the pandemic, we’ve learned how crucial school food is to America’s food supply. We’ve also learned how many school-age children and families depend on these meals. And we’ve learned how important our school food professionals are. Scratch cooking makes staff feel appreciated for their effort, and children are well-nourished and ready to learn. The kitchen staff are proud of what they’ve made. There’s a connection with the local farms. Supply chains are shorter and more crisis-proof — schools are less vulnerable to rising prices as food gets more difficult to source. Labor costs go to local folks because they are paid to cook in-house."

Read the full op-ed at EdSource

NFSN Lauds Hopeful Investments in Child Nutrition Through the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act

NFSN Staff
July 25, 2022

On July 20, the House Committee on Education and Labor introduced the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, a package of legislation that would reauthorize and improve the largest child nutrition programs that support over 30 million kids every year. National Farm to School Network is pleased that this comprehensive legislation champions many key priorities for farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE), but also outlines expanded investments in school meals and CACFP to support the whole of child nutrition.

Since the landmark passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which updated nutrition standards for the first time in decades and created a Community Eligibility option for high-poverty schools, we have learned that school and ECE meals are more crucial than ever.

Among many positive provisions, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would:

  • Create historic investments in child nutrition through an expanded Community Eligibility that would serve million more kids and offer higher reimbursement (similar to the provisions as outlined in the Build Back Better proposed legislation)
  • Increase reimbursement for non-CEP programs and increase support for CACFP
  • Expand the Farm to School Grant Program with a minimum of $15m per year in mandatory funding
  • Improve on the success of the F2S Grant Program with better access for Tribal applicants, improve grant prioritization, and review barriers for producers and applicants (See more about this language as outlined in the Farm to School Act of 2021)
  • Provide innovative flexibility for local procurement, as outlined in the Kids Eat Local Act, with added options for greater values-based procurement.
  • Grow support for scratch cooking with kitchen equipment grants and scratch cooking training, and adding scratch cooking as a focus of Team Nutrition grants.
  • Examine equity in procurement and operations with:
  • Request for Information on food service management company contracts
  • Review of Buy American provision to better support compliance
  • Support for summer food service (in-person and mobile delivery, summer EBT)
  • Creates a pilot for Tribal governments to assume operation of child nutrition programs in the role of state agencies; feasibility study of associated territories to operate their own child nutrition programs.

Farm to school and farm to ECE advocates know that child nutrition has the potential to create wins for kids, producers, and communities with the right innovations. NFSN calls on policymakers to look to this legislation as a model for investing at the earliest opportunity in the priorities we need for greater equity in child nutrition and the food system.

Learn more: See the Committee press release here, a section by section bill summary here, and the full legislative text here.