Farm to school activities have been proven to help students build healthy eating habits and support family farmers by expanding market opportunities. Today, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders demonstrated their support for growing farm to school programming across the country by introducing the Farm to School Act of 2019 (H.R. 3562, S. 2026). The bill, sponsored by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), David Perdue (R-GA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), will expand funding for and programmatic scope of the highly successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program.
The USDA Farm to School Grant Program provides funds on a competitive basis to schools, farmers, nonprofits, and local, state and tribal government entities to help schools procure local foods – including fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, dairy and other products – for school meals and to support farm to school activities like farm field trips, hands-on science classes and new food taste tests. Since making its first awards in 2013, the program has received more than 1,900 applications requesting over $141 million in support. With only $5 million in mandatory funding available annually, the Farm to School Grant Program has been forced to turn away roughly 80 percent of qualified applications. The Farm to School Act of 2019 would allow more impactful projects to be realized by:
- Increasing annual funding to $15 million and increasing the grant award maximum to $250,000.
- Advancing equity by prioritizing grants that engage diverse farmers and serve high-need schools.
- Fully including early care and education sites, summer food service sites & after school programs.
- Increasing access among tribal schools to traditional foods, especially from tribal producers.
Read our full press release here.
Learn more about the Farm to School Act of 2019 here.
Organizations that have endorsed the Farm to School Act of 2019 include the National Farm to School Network, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association, FoodCorps, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Education Association, National Farmers Union and Union of Concerned Scientists, among others.
The USDA Farm to School Grant program was originally funded as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 - the last Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (CNR) to pass. This was a major victory for the farm to school movement, as it was the first time federal legislation specifically mandated funding and support for farm to school efforts. Since the creation of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, we’ve seen high interest in participating from communities across the country, and have heard many stories of how the program has helped launch new farm to school activities. We’ve also heard your feedback on how the program can be improved and expanded to continue supporting equitable and sustainable farm to school efforts. Earlier this year, we hosted a CNR Listening Session Series to capture your thoughts on policy issues like this in order to directly inform our CNR priorities. The specific policy changes proposed in the Farm to School Act of 2019 are the results of your shared feedback.
The Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act (also recently introduced) are two important bills that can strengthen farm to school in the next CNR. Federal policy like CNR is so important because it helps ensure that farm to school efforts aren’t a fad, but a long-term, viable strategy for ensuring the health of our nation’s kids, farms and communities. But federal policymaking can be slow moving. You may recognize that this is not the first time congressional champions have introduced a Farm to School Act - it was also introduced in 2015 and 2017. While there’s no guarantee that CNR and these bills will pass in this Congress, it’s imperative that we’re prepared to advocate for the priorities that are important to the farm to school movement.
We need your help. Policy advocacy takes all of us, and your voice is critical in this process. Here’s what you can do today to help.
Organizations: If you represent a school, nonprofit organization, business or advocacy group interested in supporting farm to school in the next CNR, please add your organization’s name to our organizational sign-on letter to Congress, expressing your support for the Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act. Sign-on here.
Individuals: Are you a parent, teacher, farmer, concerned eater? Sign-up to stay up-to-date on important individual action opportunities coming this summer. Add your name to our list and will let you know how you can support these important federal policy opportunities. Sign-up here.
Learn more and stay engaged: Education and engagement are two of the most important factors in making our collective advocacy efforts effective. Help prepare for our big CNR advocacy push coming this summer:
- Explore our CNR 2019 webpage.
- Watch this upcoming webinar for a panel discussion with policy experts - including Chloe Marshall, NFSN Policy Specialist - on the process for reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. Hosted by the John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Food Policy Networks project, July 9 at 3pm ET. Learn more and register here.
- Donate to support our policy work and help us be a strong voice for farm to school on Capitol Hill as CNR approaches.
- Subscribe to our e-newsletter for the latest farm to school CNR updates.
- Don’t forget - policies at all levels of government can support farm to school efforts. Check out our new State Farm to School Policy Handbook: 2002-2018 for ideas on how you can engage with farm to school policy in your state.
Work for a government agency or university and cannot lobby? You can still make a difference! While you can’t make specific policy asks, you can (and should!) share general information about farm to school in your state and how the USDA Farm to School Grant Program has been successful. Sharing information is not lobbying - it’s education, which all of us can do! Any of the educational engagement opportunities above are a great way to be involved in CNR.
Have questions about CNR or want to learn more about how you can be a farm to school policy advocate? Contact Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms.