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.