Late yesterday afternoon, the Senate released their latest set of COVID-19 relief bills, a $1 trillion bundle of legislation covering business aid, money for schools and agricultural aid funding. Included in the legislation is $70 billion for K-12 schools ($46 billion is reserved for costs of reopening in-person school this fall), tax credits and Payroll Protection Program Extensions, and $20 billion in agricultural aid funding with no additional guardrails to correct the shortcomings of USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (see here and here). While we’re glad that Senators have recognized that our schools and farmers are in urgent need of critical funding support, this proposed legislation from the Senate falls far short of targeting the actual needs of our kids, farmers, educators and school nutrition professionals.
We need targeted policies that match the scale of this current crisis. Specifically, we need policies that directly support Black, Indigenous and small scale farmers, early care and education providers, and school food service operators – they all play a critical role in feeding and caring for our communities, and especially so during this pandemic. That’s why, as the Senate and House work out the details of this next round of COVID-19 relief, we’re calling on policymakers to:
- Fully fund universal free school meals, informed by these values, this next school year.
- Provide immediate funding support to early care and education centers.
- Create a set-aside small business relief fund for farmers of color.
- Waive the non-federal match requirement for local food and agriculture programs, including the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, for the next two years.
We are pleased to see some of these bold solutions already coming from the champions in the House and Senate. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY) and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) yesterday introduced the Small Farm to School Act, a bipartisan bill to pilot increased reimbursement for local procurement. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has included targeted support for Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color who grow vegetables and fruit, and a waiver of the non-federal match for USDA Farm to School Grants, in his Local Food Assistance and Resilient Markets Act. Bills like these should be leading this round of COVID-19 relief from Congress.
It’s essential that your Senators hear from you about what your community needs right now to support kids, educators, farmers and school nutrition professionals. This legislation is expected to move quickly, so don’t wait - take this quick 5 minute action right now!
Already made your two calls? Sign-on to endorse our COVID-19 Federal Policy Platform that includes more measures we think the Senate must include to ensure immediate relief for the people most impacted by this crisis, while building towards longer-term policies that strengthen a resilient, just food system.
If you work for a government agency or university and cannot lobby, you can still make a difference! Instead of calling your Senators to discuss specific policies, share general information about farm to school experiences and needs in your community. Sharing information is not lobbying - it’s education, which we can all do!
Taking action right now, while this relief bill is in discussion, is especially crucial. Make your calls, sign-on to the platform, and forward this message to a friend. THANK YOU for taking a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard.