National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is excited to announce that we are launching a new phase of our values-aligned universal meals campaign, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Over the next two years, NFSN is establishing direct partnerships with state coalitions that are advocating for universal meals policies, more commonly referred to as “School Meals for All.” We will be serving as an instrument for community power-building among the partner coalitions, while providing direct technical assistance. NFSN will also continue to provide advocacy tools and resources and build public awareness on the need for federal-level values-aligned universal meals policy through storytelling and grassroots engagement. 

Our success with expanding values-aligned universal meals 

Beginning in 2020, NFSN has been advocating for “values-aligned” universal meals. Just as farm to school is a triple win for kids, farmers, and communities, School Meals for All policies can transform the food system as we know it when they value the people who get school food to the table. Since then, we have created many public resources and educational materials on this topic, including tailored advocacy action kits for communities, case studies of successful campaigns, and guides on connecting with policymakers through site visits. 

We have had the pleasure of working with partners who are each working to strengthen the movement and improve the landscape of school meals for all kids—including FRAC, HEAL Food Alliance, FoodCorps, IFAI, and more. You can see the full list of our partners here

This movement to increase School Meals for All policies has gained significant momentum and has been successful over the past two years. Currently, eight states have passed permanent policies guaranteeing free school meals for all kids, and two dozen more states have introduced similar bills. It is clear that communities view values-aligned universal meals as a solution, and we are thrilled to be a part of creating this transformation. NFSN is committed to expanding these benefits to reach even more kids, farmers, and communities across the country. 

What we’re doing to continue strengthening the school meals landscape 

Robust coalitions are key in passing School Meals for All policies. They are the experts in their communities and know the nuances of their political climate and needs of their state residents. However, coalitions are often stretched too thin. This new project aims to add capacity to those coalitions through direct technical assistance, including policy and communications support, as well as facilitated networking and learning opportunities among coalitions. Over the next two years, we will be working with eight coalition partners to strengthen the overall school meals policy landscape. Currently, NFSN is thrilled to confirm partnerships with the following coalitions: 

  • School Meals for All Connecticut Coalition
  • Healthy School Meals for All New York Coalition
  • School Meals for All North Carolina Coalition
  • Healthy School Meals for All Wisconsin Coalition
“We at the School Meals 4 All Connecticut Coalition are thrilled to partner with NSFN as we work towards the goal of making school meals accessible to all students in Connecticut at no cost. NSFN has been able to help us highlight how the increased revenue from universal school meals allows schools to purchase more local foods, and how this also directly benefits our farmers, especially BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, and beginning farmers. NSFN is currently gathering data from local farmers for us, and this data will be incredibly beneficial as we educate legislators about the connection between universal school meals and farm to school.” — Jennifer Bove, former Director of Nutrition Services, East Hampton Public Schools

In addition, NFSN will be continuing to offer public advocacy training and resources, communications and storytelling tools, and a revamped resource hub to support advocacy efforts. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media to receive the latest updates. 

National Farm to School Network’s ultimate vision for school meals 

Through this campaign, NFSN strives to generate awareness and spur policymaker education at the state and national levels about substantial changes in health outcomes for America's kids. This new phase of the campaign will help build multi-stakeholder capacity to bring about behavior change related to school meals programs. By supporting coalitions to promote policy changes, our work will help establish a just, equitable food system that promotes the health of all school children and benefits farmers, workers, educators, and their communities.