USDA Proposed Rule Change to Expand the Community Eligibility Provision — What It Is and Why You Should Take Action (Deadline: May 8, 2023)

NFSN Staff
April 25, 2023

What’s Inside? (Table of Contents)

  • Summary
  • What is the Community Eligibility Provision?
  • Who Benefits From the Community Eligibility Provision?
  • Why does this Rule Change Matter?
  • How Can I Learn More and Take Action?


On March 23, 2023, the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (USDA) proposed a rule change to dramatically expand child access to school meals. They propose to lower the threshold that schools have to meet to qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a federal program that enables eligible schools to serve free meals to all students. Currently, schools can qualify for the program if they have an Identified Student Population (ISP, definition below) of 40%. USDA wants to lower the threshold to qualify for CEP from 40% to 25%. This change will greatly increase the number of schools that are eligible for the program and increase the number of students benefiting from healthy school meals. 

National Farm to School Network is a champion of this rule change. We urge our partners to submit comments to the USDA in support of expanding access to CEP.

Comments are due May 8, 2023. Continue reading for more information on the proposed change, why it is important, and how to take action. 

What is the Community Eligibility Provision?

When did CEP start?

Who benefits from this program?

  • One in three schools participated in CEP in the 2021-22 school year, according to a report by the Food Research and Action Center. This amounts to over 33,000 schools, which represent 16.2 million students, or nearly a quarter (22%) of all children under 18 in the US. Most eligible schools (74.3%) participate in CEP.

Who can qualify for CEP?

  • To be eligible to operate CEP, a school within a district must have an Identified Student Percentage (ISP) of 40% or higher. Schools can also form groups to increase their ISP and maximize federal funding. 

What is an Identified Student Percentage?

  • The “identified student percentage” (ISP) is calculated by dividing the total number of identified students by the total number of enrolled students. “Identified students” are students who are categorically eligible for free meals without the need for a household income application. For example, students are considered categorically eligible if they are enrolled in Head Start or Early Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), and other similar federal assistance programs, or are homeless, migrant, runaway, or are in foster care. Additionally, the USDA began a pilot program in 14 states to directly certify students if they are enrolled in Medicaid. 

How are schools funded through CEP?

  • Schools are reimbursed using a formula that multiplies Identified Student Population by 1.6. This number will give schools the percentage of meals they serve that are fully reimbursed by the federal government. For example, a school with an ISP of 56% will be federally reimbursed for 93% of the meals they serve. The remainder of funding would have to come from non-federal sources. A school with an ISP of 63% will be reimbursed for all meals they serve by the federal government. So among schools that participate in CEP, those with higher ISPs will be reimbursed for a higher percentage of meals served. 

Who Benefits from the Community Eligibility Provision?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government made all school meals temporarily free to students. The nation was able to see first-hand the difference this support made in communities. Providing healthy school meals for all through CEP provides similar benefits throughout the school community, backed up by a robust and growing body of research evidence. NFSN has created a 3-page list of talking points that stem from this research in the context of this proposed rule change. 

It benefits students:

  • It promotes equity. More students have access to healthy school meals, regardless of income.
  • Without cash registers, there are shorter lunch lines and more time to eat lunch.
  • There is no stigma associated with eating school lunch.
  • We know hungry students can’t learn. School meals for all improve student outcomes by ensuring kids can stay focused in the classroom.

It benefits parents:

  • Parents experience less stress when they don’t need to worry about preparing school lunches or paying for meals at school 

It benefits school nutrition professionals.

  • There is less administrative burden for schools, which do not have to process school meal applications if they participate in CEP. 
  • There are fewer reporting requirements for schools, which previously had to track each meal by payment category (such as free, reduced-price, or paid meals).
  • Schools no longer have to act as debt collectors. They do not need to call parents to make up for unpaid meals. This has become a growing problem, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The lunch line is faster, without the need to collect payment from students.
  • Reduced administrative burden means that more time can be spent on scratch cooking and purchasing local ingredients.

Why does this Rule Change Matter?

It will increase the number of students benefiting from healthy school meals.

More schools can participate: This rule change will lower the threshold to participate in CEP from 40% to 25%, meaning that many more schools (and more students) will be able to benefit from this program. According to Food Research and Action Center, this change will expand CEP to reach an additional 9 million students in 20,000 more schools that would now be eligible for the program. Some states even require schools to participate in all federal food assistance programs in which they qualify, which ensures more schools will benefit from CEP.

Student meal participation increases with universal access: Meal participation increases when students have access to healthy school meals. 

It will make statewide universal meal policies more appealing to state governments. 

National Farm to School Network has launched the Who’s At the Table? School Meals campaign to promote state-level universal meals policies that align with our community values. This proposed rule would support states that have implemented universal meals and make universal meals policies more appealing to state governments looking to establish universal meals. 

Most universal meals policies require their state governments to cover the difference between the regular price of the meal and any federal funding support for school meals. For example, if a meal costs $3, and the federal government already provides $1 in reimbursement for that meal, currently the state government would provide the remaining $2. This ultimately makes school meals free to all public school students.

Even in states with universal free meals policies, schools are experiencing challenges with collecting income eligibility forms needed to obtain the maximum amount of funding available from federal sources. Lowering the CEP eligibility threshold would allow more schools to participate in CEP, allowing for a more streamlined paperwork process for schools in these states, and reducing the overall cost of a program. This proposed rule change may be the catalyst for more states to adopt healthy school meals for all.

How Can I Learn More and Take Action?

To Learn More:

To Get Involved:

Are you ready to make a comment of your own?

NFSN Urges the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to Center Equity in the New Evaluation Framework

NFSN Staff
April 17, 2023

By Trisha Bautista Larson, MPH, Program Manager and Karen Spangler, MPP, Policy Director

The public health community has long referred to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) Framework for Program Evaluation as a tool to enhance and disseminate public health strategies. Twenty-five years after its creation, the CDC recently announced it would update the framework and called for comments. National Farm to School Network (NFSN) understands that evaluation is an integral part of program and policy development, implementation, and sustainability – and when conducted with equity in mind, it has the power to cultivate community empowerment. As part of our commitment to our Call to Action, we have submitted comments to the CDC urging for racial and social equity principles to be embedded in the new iteration of the evaluation framework. This is a remarkable opportunity to confront the structural racism in program and policy research and analysis, which have been rooted in extracting information from communities, to one that reimagines the way findings are shared and increases stakeholder accountability.

CDC’s Evaluation Framework Update Should Include:

  • Systems Thinking - Provide tools that support a more complex view of program impact and reflect advances in public health research. Farm to school and farm to early care education practitioners see every day that health is shaped by more than just individual behavioral interventions. Thus, the new Framework should take into consideration the complexity of translating programs and policy recommendations into real world applications. Explicitly including approaches such as the Policy, Systems, and Environmental change allows for crucial flexibility in adapting “best practices” for program and policy implementation at the community and individual levels. Integrating PSE approaches in the new Framework can help bridge the complex intersection of inter/intrapersonal relationships, community, and other social factors with knowledge, behavior, and ultimately, long-term health outcomes for program and policy implementation. 
  • Asset-based Approach and Lived Experiences - Consider the lived experiences and knowledge that already exist in the communities intended to be served even prior to introduction to a new program or policy initiative. Proactively working to engage those who are directly impacted by health inequities can bolster the ability to make long-term change beyond a specific program or policy intervention. 
  • Collaboration - Ensure that evaluation design and evidence gathering are not extractive of communities. The new Framework should seek to embed and build upon Community-Based Participatory Research methods. Approaches like these foster equitable relationships between researchers/practitioners and community stakeholders to cultivate a space that centers mutuality and community empowerment. The new Framework should also be able to set fresher standards on ways to equitably communicate and distill research findings.

For additional information and framework around centering racial and social equity in farm to school evaluation, please visit NFSN’s Racial and Social Equity Assessment Tool for Farm to School Programs and Policy. This tool was developed in consultation with NFSN Partner organizations that are deeply rooted in embedding health equity in their work. 

We are thankful for the opportunity to offer this perspective to the CDC as they craft the next iteration of the framework for program evaluation. This is an essential time for agencies to be investigating the way in which practitioners – much like in the public health community – evaluate and communicate research findings that aim to impact health outcomes.

USDA Child Nutrition Program Rule Proposals — What are They and Why Should You Take Action? (Deadline: Extended to May 10, 2023)

NFSN Staff
April 3, 2023

What’s Inside? (Table of Contents)

  • Intro
  • What are “Rules” vs. “Laws” in General? Why is it Important to Advocate?
  • What are the Child Nutrition Program Rules and Why are They Important?
  • Rule Change Highlights
  • How Can I Learn More and Take Action?

On February 7, 2023, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced proposed rule changes to its child nutrition program standards. This will have a huge impact on school, after-school, and early child care meal programs. Before implementing these proposed changes, USDA is asking individuals and organizations to share feedback on how these changes would affect people and what to keep in mind when implementing.

The proposed rule changes include the following:

  • Expansion of local purchasing (a.k.a. “Geographic Preference”)
  • School nutrition standards, including added sugars, milk, grains, and sodium
  • Changes in professional standards for school nutrition careers 
  • Increased focus on traditional foods and menu planning for American Indian and Alaskan Native students
  • Increase in Buy American policies
  • And more

National Farm to School Network (NFSN) is excited that a number of our longtime policy priorities were adopted in these proposed rule changes, including buying local, strides in equity, and better career access.

More work is needed to make sure the most helpful rule change proposals become officially adopted. NFSN conducted a series of listening sessions and a survey from partners to put together and submit comments on behalf of the network. At the same time, we want to encourage YOU and your organization to consider submitting comments individually so that USDA can hear from a variety of relevant voices.

NFSN is invested in lifting the voices of people directly involved with school meals and other child nutrition programs because some of these changes, if done right, can help change these programs so their decision-making can be less focused on the bottom dollar and more based on values that better serve their students and communities.

A question we want you to consider as you advocate submit comments: How can USDA’s rules be implemented in ways that help make your values-based decisions more feasible?

Comments are due May 10, 2023. Continue reading for more information on the proposed changes, why they’re important, and how you can take action.

What are “Rules” vs. “Laws” in General? Why is it Important to Advocate?

Many people are aware about voting during election season. We vote for certain laws, and we vote for the individuals to represent us, including federal (Senators, House Representatives, and presidents) and state representatives (Senators, House Reps, and governors), plus other representatives like city council members, school board members, etc.

After being elected, our representatives propose bills and vote to pass them into law. This includes the Farm Bill and Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which NFSN does a lot of advocacy around. It’s easy to forget about this part of advocacy. Some may say things like, “we already voted for them, so there’s nothing we can do.” However, it’s just as important to tell our representatives how we want to be represented once they enter office.

After a law is passed, it’s then the responsibility of the different departments like USDA to take those laws and put them into action. Bills are often written with a degree of vagueness, and they can be open to interpretation on how the actual processes and logistics will go. This is called rule-making. This is yet another stage in the policy process where advocacy can come into play. It’s important to advocate for rules like the Child Nutrition Program rules to make sure they are implemented in ways that help the people affected.

What are the Child Nutrition Program Rules and Why are They Important?

In 1980, the federal government released the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). It was then established that USDA’s child nutrition programs must align with the up-to-date scientific evidence on a healthy diet set forth in the guidelines. USDA translates these high-level guidelines into specific rules for things like sodium levels or servings of vegetables. The standards are also important because they set rules for other aspects of how federal program funds are used, such as purchasing products.These rules directly affect school, after-school, and early care meals (as well as adult care food programs).

The current rules that are in place through the next school year were issued in 2022 as a temporary, transitional policy. The new proposed rules are called “durable rules,” meaning they will remain in place permanently until the next DGA update, which happens every five years.  However, it’s very possible that they will remain in place for an even longer time period if the DGA do not dramatically change.

Rule Change Highlights

NOTE: This is a simplified version of the changes. For fuller details, see “How Can I Learn More and Take Action” below.

Geographic Preference Expansion (i.e. Local Purchasing)

This rule change would simplify and expand local purchasing guidelines for schools. Current rules allow local purchasing as one of many factors schools can use to award a food vendor in a competitive bid. This rule change would allow child nutrition program operators to consider “local” a necessary factor that vendors must meet in a competitive bid.

NFSN strongly supports this rule change as complex purchasing policies for school meals are one of the biggest barriers for schools and early care and education sites to work with local, beginning, and small producers. This rule change would support local farmers and economies as well as help schools serve more fresh, local foods to students.

School Nutrition Standards

USDA sets specific standards that all child nutrition program operators must comply with and document in order to receive reimbursement for meals. These include the following:

  • Added Sugars: The proposed rule would create a limit on added sugars in all child nutrition programs (school breakfast, school lunch, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, or CACFP). A product-based limit would begin in School Year 2024-2025 for grain-based desserts, breakfast cereals, yogurt, and flavored milk (see the proposed limits on grams of added sugar for each product here). This would replace the current weekly maximum limit that is in place for CACFP. Beginning in SY27-28, there would be an additional limit to ensure that, on average throughout the week, no more than 10 percent of calories per meal are coming from added sugars. “Added sugars” means products like cane or beet sugar, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup or agave, or other sweetener products containing calories. The proposed rule does not contain specifics about artificial sweeteners or products like stevia but commenters are encouraged to share their views with USDA. 
  • Milk: Current standards allow low-fat or fat-free flavored milk (such as chocolate milk) for all K-12 grade levels, in addition to unflavored milk. The proposed rule asks whether flavored milk should be limited to Grades 9-12, Grades 6-12, or allowed for all grades as it is currently.  
  • Sodium: The proposed rule would replace the current sodium targets with phased-in reductions. School breakfast would have a 10% reduction in the sodium limit in SY5-26, and another 10% reduction beginning SY2027. School lunch would have 10% reductions in SY25, SY27, and SY29. You can see the numeric limits for each phase and age group here.
  • Whole Grains: The current standards require 80% of products each week to be “whole grain rich.” The proposed rule asks for input on whether to keep the current standard or update to a requirement that all grains meet the whole grain-rich requirement, with the exception that enriched grains may be offered one day each school week.
  • Substituting Vegetables for Fruits at Breakfast: The proposed rule would allow providers to substitute vegetables for fruits in breakfast (such as potatoes) if the menu includes other “vegetable subgroups” (such as  leafy greens or carrots) on the other days. You can see the full breakfast Meal Pattern here for further details.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Currently, nuts and seeds can only count toward 50% of the “meat/meat alternate” requirement for a reimbursable meal, and must be accompanied by another protein food (such as cheese). The proposed rule would allow nuts and seeds to fully count toward the “meat/meat alternate” requirement, and renames the category to “proteins” for better clarity in meal planning.
  • NSLP Afterschool Snacks: The NSLP Afterschool Snacks program standards would now align with the CACFP snack standards. This change would require NSLP afterschool snack to contain at least two out of five component categories (milk, vegetables, fruits, grains, or meat/meat alternate). 
  • Competitive Foods: The rule keeps standards for calories, sodium, fats, and total sugars in USDA-designated “Smart Snacks,” and adds an exemption for hummus that allows it to be sold as a Smart Snack.

USDA is seeking feedback from the public and communities involved in administering or using these programs. 

Traditional Foods and Menu Planning Options

The rule changes include three specific regulations on traditional foods and menu planning:

  • It explicitly clarifies that traditional foods may be served as part of a reimbursable school meal
  • It establishes that the definition of “traditional foods” refers to a “food that has traditionally been prepared and consumed by an [American] Indian Tribe,” per the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2014
  • It expands the ability to substitute vegetables for grains in Tribally operated schools, schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, and schools serving primarily American Indian or Alaska Native children

This rule change could be one step in building a more inclusive school that supports students eating foods reflecting their cultures and supports the farmers that grow those foods. This supports NFSN’s Call to Action, that 100% of communities will hold power in a racially just food system. USDA is asking stakeholders whether this definition of “traditional foods” is the appropriate one. Additionally, USDA requests public input on additional menu planning options that would improve the child nutrition programs for American Indian and Alaska Native children. This is an excellent opportunity to elevate the needs and barriers facing child nutrition providers as they try to plan meals and purchase products that celebrate students’ cultures. 

Buy American

Currently, schools are encouraged to buy American but may be exempted when products aren’t easily sourced in the U.S. or there is a significant price difference. However, these exemptions are currently not defined nor documented. This rule change would set a 5% cap on total annual commercial food costs of non-domestic foods, and clarify that over 51% of a food product must consist of agricultural commodities that were grown domestically to count as a “domestic product.” Child nutrition program operators would be required to document their non-domestic food purchases as well as require “Buy American” provisions to be part of a food vendor’s contract.

This approach would dramatically improve USDA’s ability to understand the gaps and market opportunities in the school food value chain, but of course any additional documentation and compliance measures could be burdensome for school nutrition professionals. USDA wants to understand if this approach to limits and documentation will help meet the goal of supporting domestic producers and workers, who risk being undercut by cheaper competition, and supporting school nutrition professionals who may struggle with budget and product availability constraints.

Professional Standards

USDA aims to ease difficulties in hiring and increase professional career pathways in school nutrition. Current Professional Standards for medium and large districts participating in federal child nutrition programs require a degree. The proposed rule would allow medium and large school food authorities to substitute 10 years of school nutrition program experience for a bachelor’s or associate’s degree.

This rule change could remove unnecessary barriers to professional advancement for experienced child nutrition professionals. USDA is especially looking to hear from school nutrition professionals about the possible consequences of this change to make sure they implement this in a way that’s as helpful as possible.

How Can I Learn More and Take Action?

Read about the proposed rule changes and take note of what most directly affects you and your community:

Check out these additional resources from NFSN: 

After you determine which topics to focus on, read USDA’s specific questions for which they are seeking answers.

After you have written down your answers to USDA’s questions, submit your comments (click for instructions). Public comments must be submitted by May 10, 2023.

USDA has identified its specific questions, as well as created the resources/charts in the document above, to help simplify the process for members of the public, and we applaud this step to help people share their values and engage with USDA.

Let’s take action together and make sure our kids and communities are supported.

If you have any questions about the proposed rule changes, contact Karen Spangler at

Opinion: Student Leader Applauds California's Free School Meals for All

NFSN Staff
December 6, 2022

By Kristie To

Kristie To is a high school student in Orange County. She serves in Student Government, her local Youth Advisory Council, and is on the Board of Directors and Executive Branch of the California Association of Student Councils.

"This school year, California’s new “School Meals for All” program began. As a student leader serving my school, the city of Irvine, and the California Association of Student Councils, I applaud California for being the first state to provide every K–12 student in our public schools with free breakfast and lunch.

My peers and I rely on school breakfast and lunch every day. Many of my closest friends do not have the time and are not in the financial situation to provide themselves with meals to fuel their school day and concentrate in class. My parents and older sister have full-time jobs, and I struggle to prepare meals for myself with my busy schedule. This new program has alleviated the stress of buying and preparing meals that previously strained students and families."

View the full op-ed here.

“Who’s At the Table” Campaign will Bring More Awareness to Values-Aligned Universal Meals

NFSN Staff
November 14, 2022

Media contact:

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."

About NFSN

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.

Applications now open for USDA Farm to School Grants

NFSN Staff
November 1, 2022

Schools, farmers, state and tribal governments, and other organizations that help produce or serve meals to kids through USDA’s child nutrition programs can apply now for a USDA Farm to School Grant (deadline: 01/06/2023). Administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Community Food Systems Division (CFSD), the USDA Farm to School Grant is an annual, competitive grant that supports the planning, development, and implementation of farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE) programs. Since 2013, USDA's Farm to School grants have helped state, regional, and local organizations as they initiate, expand, and institutionalize their farm to school and farm to ECE efforts. This round will award $12 million in grants organized into Turnkey, Implementation, and State Agency tracks. USDA will again prioritize racial equity, providing bonus points to projects operated by and serving communities that are underserved, marginalized, or adversely affected by poverty and inequality. We applaud USDA’s continued support of racial equity, which aligns with our Call to Action and with the long-term changes that we would like to see through the Farm to School Act. See below for more information on the achievements of the grant since it began, the kinds of projects that Farm to School Grants can support, who is eligible, and resources to apply.

Farm to School Grant Achievements and Projects

  • In 2010, the National Farm to School Network and National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition - along with our network of supporters from across the country - successfully advocated for the creation of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, as well as subsequent funding increases through the Farm to School Act.  
  • Nationally, the Farm to School Grant Program has awarded nearly $75 million in farm to school grants since 2013, funding more than 1,000 projects that have reached over 25 million students in nearly 60,000 schools. This program has grown over time, with more than $10 million to support 123 projects in 2022 alone
  • Policymakers on both sides of the aisle, including farm to school champion and retiring Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), have sponsored multiple, bipartisan bills that promote farm to school, including the Farm to School Act to expand and improve the Farm to School Grant Program.
  • Farm to School grant projects include local procurement, agricultural education, edible gardening, and farm to school action planning objectives that improve access to local foods. Check out these links to learn more about the specific projects awarded to past grantees: 

2023 Grant Details

Release Date: October 6, 2022 

Application Due Date: 11:59 PM, Eastern Standard Time (EST), January 6, 2023 

Anticipated Award Date: July 2023 

Anticipated number of awards: 150 

Estimated Total Program Funding: $12,000,000

Award Ceiling: $100,000/$500,000* 

Award Floor: $10,000

*The USDA notes in the Request for Applications (RFA) that in anticipation of authority to provide grants of up to $500,000 in the FY 2023 agriculture appropriations, USDA will consider proposals of up to $500,000 from State agencies or other eligible organizations proposing projects that are multi-state or national in scope. Other selected grantees are limited to $100,000.

Eligible Applicants:

  • Eligible schools, including nonprofit private and charter schools, which operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and/or School Breakfast Program; 
  • Eligible Child Care Institutions, including non-school based institutions that have an agreement with the State agency to operate the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP); 
  • Eligible Summer Institutions, including non-school based institutions that have an agreement with the State agency to operate the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP); 
  • State agencies; 
  • Local agencies; 
  • Indian Tribal organizations (ITOs) 
  • Agricultural producer 

Resources and Next steps‍ 

To learn more about the USDA F2S grants, review the RFA, see Frequently Asked Questions, read about previous awardees, and more, please visit the below links. 

For more information on USDA’s many farm to school initiatives, or to access resources associated with farm to school, please visit USDA’s Farm to School Program webpage.

Be sure to share these opportunities and resources with school, producers, community organizations, and institutions in your network!

Press Release - Celebrating National Farm to School Month 2022

NFSN Staff
October 3, 2022



David Hutabarat

National Farm to School Network

This Year’s Theme is “Who’s at the Table?”

October 3, 2022 – Schools and early care and education (ECE) sites across the country are celebrating the twelfth annual National Farm to School Month this October, a 31-day campaign to recognize the benefits farm to school and farm to early care and education bring to youth, families, farmers and communities. National Farm to School Network advocated for the creation of National Farm to School Month in 2010, and it was officially recognized by Congress shortly after.

Farm to school is a movement for building just and equitable food systems through the ways kids eat, grow and learn about food in school and early care and education settings. Farm to school is a win for kids when they eat nourishing food in meals and snacks, participate in hands-on activities and learn about the importance of where our food comes from; a win for farmers when school market opportunities provide reliable and consistent sales and fair pay; and a win for communities when food is grown, distributed, prepared and consumed for the benefit of every community member. To ensure all communities see the benefit of these wins, farm to school activities must be firmly centered in equity.

This year’s National Farm to School Month theme is “Who’s at the Table?” Imagine an ideal school meal—nourishing, cooked from scratch, culturally relevant, purchased from local farmers. How did that meal get to the table? There are so many people who took part in bringing that food to the table—from the farmers and farmworkers who grew the food, to the people who processed and delivered the food, to the school food service staff who purchased and prepared the food.

As National Farm to School Network continues its work of shifting power to cultivate a racially just food system, we envision a food system in which no one is left out, in which everyone can access nourishing food. If we want to build this vision, we must lift up the perspectives of the people at each step of the food value chain, especially being intentional to center those who are not always recognized, despite their vital role in this ecosystem. This year's National Farm to School Month will highlight the valuable contributors across the different parts of the food system. Who are they? What would our food system look like if we valued their contributions, leadership and expertise? And how can the different players within farm to school work together so that individuals and communities can all win?

Throughout the month, National Farm to School Network will be spotlighting leaders from across the country through story sharing activities. This includes its annual Movement Meeting on October 27 from 3-5:00pm ET, Who’s at the Table?, featuring a panel of leaders of color who are working to transform their community by working to build power in their local food system. Additional story sharing will occur on National Farm to School Network’s blog and social media channels.

National Farm to School Network offers dozens of resources for celebrating National Farm to School Month on its website, People can find resources such as a Celebration Toolkit, posters, bookmarks, suggested activities and more. Participants are encouraged to share their excitement through social media with the hashtags #F2SMonth and #farmtoschool. National Farm to School Network thanks its sponsors of this year’s National Farm to School Month campaign: CoBank, Farm Credit, National Co+Op Grocers, Vitamix and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.


About National Farm to School Network

National Farm to School Network is the leading voice for the U.S. farm to school and farm to early care and education movement, working as an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities to bring local food sourcing, gardens, and food and agriculture education into schools and early care and education settings. Learn more at:

National Farm to School Network Applauds the Biden-Harris Administration for Recognizing Crucial Role of School Meals in Improving Child Nutrition and Hunger

NFSN Staff
September 28, 2022

By Miguel Villarreal and Karen Spangler

For the first time in 50 years, the White House is leading a summit on hunger, nutrition, and health to tackle hunger and diet-related diseases in America. National Farm to School Network is excited and grateful to be at this summit to discuss transformative change, which will include topics like food as medicine, promoting physical activity, childhood nutrition, public-private partnerships, and equity.

Yesterday, the Biden-Harris administration released its National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. We were delighted to see that school meals are prioritized in this strategy: “The Biden-Harris administration will advance a pathway to free healthy school meals for all, working with Congress to expand access to healthy, free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032.” The strategy also calls for farm to school activities such as local purchasing, nutrition education, and scratch cooking as “essential components” of the effort. 

 “The Biden-Harris administration will advance a pathway to free healthy school meals for all, working with Congress to expand access to healthy, free school meals for 9 million more children by 2032.”

On behalf of the National Farm to School Network, we applaud and thank the administration for recognizing the crucial role of school meals in improving child nutrition and hunger. This strategy of farm to school and child nutrition hits multiple values and returns on investment for hunger, nutrition, and health with one government program that already exists. It is straightforward and effective.

However, just days after the conference concludes, schools and families across the nation will still be faced with the unfortunate reality: the special child nutrition waivers that have kept hundreds of thousands of students out of hunger through the COVID-19 pandemic are set to expire on September 30. 

The child nutrition waivers introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic offered every child, regardless of economic status, the ability to receive a meal at no charge throughout the pandemic. The program also allowed schools greater flexibility to prepare and serve meals and reduced the lengthy administrative paperwork required for distributing millions of school meals. 

School districts across the country are still facing challenges in keeping their programs viable as we “return to normal” after the pandemic. Record inflation, higher than at any point since the early 1980s, has impacted prices across the board and the supply chain continues to experience unprecedented challenges. Right now, in America, too many families are choosing between feeding their children nutritious food and paying for other vital expenses. The most recent national data estimates 12 percent of households with children—that’s 1 in 8 kids—experience food insecurity. 

If we can’t act on extending the waivers—and the signs are not good—then there’s still another big opportunity to do the right thing by hungry children: improve and strengthen child nutrition and school meal programs by acting on Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR). The CNR process usually happens every five years. But the last time Congress acted on this was more than a decade ago. This means schools and meal providers are working with outdated regulations that don’t reflect the current needs of children and families. Thankfully, the recent version of the CNR passed by the House Education and Labor Committee is extremely promising

Following this week’s Summit, Congress has an opportunity to act on behalf of school food service programs. If Congress advances the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization, we have an important opportunity—the first in a decade—to leverage federal farm-to-school and other child nutrition policies to shift power towards a more just food system. We are hopeful that the Biden-Harris administration’s national strategy will begin to tackle this issue, and we urge Congress to work closely with the administration to recognize the urgency and importance of a national free healthy school meals for all policy.

Policy change happens because people dedicate their time and attention to educating and urging legislators to recognize needs in order to make critical changes for the people within their communities. Everyone, not just lobbyists, can advocate for fairness in the food system. National Farm to School Network is proud to be one of many organizations in this endeavor. We will take this opportunity to advocate for positive and sustainable change on behalf of our nation’s children and families and hope to do this together with you.

Miguel Villarreal is the Interim Co-Executive Director at National Farm to School Network.

Karen Spangler is the Policy Director at National Farm to School Network