David Hutabarat, Communications Director, NFSN
(Washington, D.C., November 14, 2022)—The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) and allied and partner organizations across the United States are launching a “Who’s at The Table” campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of values-aligned universal meals.
The campaign follows important, innovative bills on the issue in states like California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Colorado, to ensure all students benefit from free school meals over the coming years.
NFSN was invited to attend the White House’s recent Hunger, Nutrition and Health Conference, the first of its kind in 50 years. In the wake of this historic event, the campaign aims to encourage broader engagement in such policies from policy makers, school principals, cafeteria managers, students, parents, produce suppliers, farmers, and farm workers.
“We must continue to build on the momentum to make free school meals for all a permanent reality so that millions of children across the country have access to the healthy food they need to keep hunger at bay and to thrive in and out of the classroom,” said Luis Guardia, President of Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), an advisor in the development of the campaign.
A new website and social media influencing campaign will offer tools to understand and communicate the benefits of healthy, equitably produced school meals. Parents, farmers, educators can all ensure this issue is at the top of the policy agenda. NFSN also held listening sessions in the runup to the White House summit to communicate this perspective.
Experts agree that with universal school meals, kids learn better, stay in school longer, and pay closer attention in class. Fresh, farm-to-school meals for all help level the playing field on child hunger. Many child nutrition providers, parents and students agree. Now it’s time to act.
Karen Spangler, Policy Director at NFSN said: “Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, school nutrition professionals have worked tirelessly to feed kids under emergency conditions with limited resources and breakdowns in the supply chain. Policies that allow school nutrition professionals to feed all kids are a necessity, one that lets them focus on nourishing kids instead of checking paperwork for each and every student for free or reduced-price meals. At the same time, shortages in key ingredients highlighted the weaknesses in a consolidated, inequitably produced food supply. We can address this and improve our food system for everyone through strategic investments like values-aligned healthy school meals for all kids.”
Maleeka Manurasada, National Organizer at the HEAL Food Alliance, an advisor in the development of the campaign, said: "Over 42 million people nationwide struggle every day to get a meal, let alone one that will truly nourish them. Values-Aligned Universal Meals is a powerful and critical program that will not only truly nourish our children, but also nourish our communities and our environment. Our food and farm system needs radical transformation to one that values health, workers, animals, and the planet, and school meals are a critical place to begin that shift."
National Farm to School Network has a vision of a strong and just food system for all, and we seek deep transformation toward this vision through farm to school – the way kids eat, grow, and learn about food in schools and early care and education settings.