By Karen Spangler, Policy Director

2020 has been a tumultuous year for so many of us – educators, farmers and fishers, school nutrition professionals, and of course children and families affected by the pandemic and its impact on the economy. While these crises are ongoing and there is still much work to be done, we want to take a moment to recognize the hard-won progress that our movement has made, together, in federal farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE) policy during the 116th Congress. In particular, there have been numerous important marker bills introduced in both the US House and Senate since this Congress convened in January 2019, including:

  • Small Farm to School Act: Would create an eight state pilot program of local procurement incentives providing extra reimbursement under the National School Lunch Program.
  • Farm to School Act: Would expand funding and eligibility for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, and increase equity by prioritizing grants that engage diverse farmers, serve high-need schools, and increase partnerships between tribal schools and tribal producers.
  • Kids Eat Local Act: Would allow schools to require local procurement for child nutrition programs, rather than including geographic preference as just one factor in the overall bid.
  • Universal School Meals Program Act of 2019: Would establish free breakfast, lunch, and summer food service available to all children in school and early care and education, including an incentive to procure at least 30% of ingredients locally.
  • Justice for Black Farmers Act: Would address discriminatory practices in USDA policies, including establishing independent civil rights oversight, creating a land grant system for Black farmers, and banning anti-competitive practices in livestock and poultry.
  • School Food Modernization Act: Would provide grants, loan guarantees, and technical assistance to help school nutrition professionals have the infrastructure and equipment they need to prepare meals with more fresh and unprocessed ingredients.
  • Improving Training for School Food Service Workers Act: Would require that USDA-provided training for local food service personnel take place during regularly scheduled, paid hours, and use hands-on methods whenever possible.
  • Food and Nutrition Education Act: Would establish a pilot program to support local education agencies to hire full-time food and nutrition educators, school gardens, and other hands-on nutrition learning opportunities for students.
  • Local School Foods Expansion Act: Would establish the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fresh Fruits and Vegetables as a permanent program and expand it to more states.

You can read more about each of these bills and see who co-sponsored them here.

Despite the difficulties of this year, these are shining bright spots that can set us up for significant federal policy opportunities with the new 117th Congress in 2021. To make that happen, your legislators need to hear from you that these marker bills are important!

ACTION: Take 2 minutes to scan the list of co-sponsors of these bills, identify if any are your members of Congress, and give them a call at the Capitol switchboard [202-224-3121] to thank them for their leadership. Then, take a second to thank yourself and your fellow farm to school advocates for your own hard work that has laid the foundation for these policy wins to be possible.

When the 117th Congress begins on January 3, 2021, we will need legislative champions to advance the priorities of farm to school and farm to ECE, including re-introducing bills like these and passing the critical COVID-19 relief measures our communities need. (Read more about the COVID-19 federal measures we’re pushing for here.) Your voices have never been more necessary to thank federal farm to school champions and forge ahead on policies towards a just food system.

P.S. Your donations make our policy work possible and will help us continue important farm to school and ECE advocacy with the next Congress. Will you make an end of year, tax-deductible donation today to support our ongoing policy efforts? Thank you!