By Chloe Marshall, Policy Specialist

“Our kids deserve healthy food!”
“School lunch is important because we need to eat and be healthier.”
“Feed the future with real, healthy meals!”

After having passed a farm bill and confirming this year’s budget, our congressional leaders are discussing the possible return of a major opportunity for farm to school advocates - the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (CNR). On Jan. 28, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry announced to the National School Board Association that “if we can put politics aside...there is a clear pathway for child nutrition programs to be reauthorized yet this year.” With this announcement, we find ourselves gearing up for what could be another journey to defend nutrition standards, increase funding for school meals, and of course, pave the way for embedding farm to school practices in our food system. Here’s our reflection on where CNR stands now and what we can do moving forward as a network:

What is a CNR?
The Child Nutrition Act reauthorization (or CNR for short) authorizes federal school meal and child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, among others (see table below). The last CNR, known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, was groundbreaking for farm to school stakeholders nationwide. For the first time, the legislation supported farm to school directly by providing $5 million in annual mandatory funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program. A major victory for the National Farm to School Network and farm to school champions across the country, this program funds competitive grants and technical assistance for farm to school activities that increase the use of and improve access to local foods in schools. Policies like this ensure more schools across the nation have a pathway to practicing farm to school, even if their local district hasn’t shown support yet.

Programs Included in CNR: School Breakfast Program (SBP)
National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Farm to School Grant Program
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP)
Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

The package of bills that make up CNR is meant to be reauthorized every five years, but irreconcilable differences between House and Senate versions of bills prevented this from happening in 2016. As the National Farm to School Network prepares for a possible return of CNR this year, we want to hear your voice! As our name implies, we are truly a national network of stakeholders, and our policy agenda is driven by advocates like you. We invite you to join one of our CNR Listening Sessions, beginning March 19, where you can weigh in on our future CNR policy initiatives.

What Can You Do to Prepare for CNR?

Right now:

In the near future:

  • Prepare your asks - as a constituent, what actions do you want to see from your legislators as CNR is debated?
  • Cultivate your legislative champions

If and when the Reauthorization takes place:

  • Provide feedback to the National Farm to School Network
  • Contact your legislators

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