Despite Lack of Funding for USDA School Meal Waivers Extension, Wins Present for Children, Farmers, and Communities in Congress’s Latest Spending Bill
Congress recently passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package. While the demand for nutritious, equitably procured school meals far exceeds the scope of funding provided, this bill nevertheless contains a handful of wins for farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE) and much-needed funds for our farmers and communities.
School Meal Funding
This bill provides $26.9 billion for child nutrition programs. This is an increase of $1.77 billion above the FY21 enacted level to meet forecasted participation needs in the programs. As kids return to the classroom, this funding will support more than 5.2 billion school lunches and snacks. Unfortunately, this bill did not include an extension of USDA waiver authority, a temporary pandemic program that has provided millions of schools, children, and families with crucial support amid ongoing economic, supply chain, and labor challenges. As the June 30, 2022, expiration date quickly approaches, NFSN urges Congress to extend USDA waiver authority. NFSN will continue to advocate for this as schools, youth-serving and community-based organizations, and child care providers face the challenge of effectively providing meals to millions of hungry children.
- School Lunch Program - $14.67 billion
- School Breakfast Program - $5.19 billion
- Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) - $4.31 billion
- Summer Food Service Program - $5.81 million
Farm to School and Scratch Cooking
- Farm to School Grants - $12 million; language to increase grant size max to $500,000, and includes funding for a national Farm to School Institute to build capacity among farm to school and farm to ECE practitioners. (See our series on the success of the Farm to School Institute model here).
- School Meals Equipment grants - $30 million
Farm to ECE and Child Care - Grant programs through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize the vital and interconnected role of nutrition, physical activity, and racial equity in addressing public health. Dedicated funding for Farm to Early Care and Education (ECE) supports the unique needs of ECE providers with comprehensive, state-based initiatives to increase the number of successful Farm to ECE initiatives. CDC REACH (Racial and Ethnic Aspects of Community Health) Grants provide another source of funding for locally targeted, culturally relevant programs to improve nutrition in child care settings and the community. The Committee includes over $20 billion for early childhood education programs through the Child Care Development Block grant (CCDBG), Head Start, and Preschool Development Grants - an increase of $3.08 billion over the FY21 enacted level.
- Farm to ECE - The committee includes $2 million within Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity to continue research and education related to farm-to-school programs that result in promoting healthy eating habits for students.
- CDC REACH Grants - $65.95 million & SDOH funding - $8 million
- CCDBG - $7.37 billion (FY21 level was $5.9B)
- Head Start - $12.18 billion
- Preschool Development Grants - $450 million
- Early Child Care Collaborative - $4 million
Local Markets Access
Farm to school and farm to ECE couldn’t exist without work to build vibrant and equitable local food networks. Kids, producers, and communities benefit from investments in local and regional food infrastructure, marketing, and technical assistance. The Local Agriculture Markets Program (LAMP) provides support for overall local and regional food systems projects, increasing the viability of local producers and organizations that make farm to school activities possible. Small and very small meat processors are an essential part of local and regional food systems. Fighting the consolidation of poultry and livestock infrastructure is essential to shifting power to producers and to creating a more crisis-resilient food system. Relief of overtime fees for food safety inspectors are one way to support increased capacity.
- Local Agriculture Market Program - $20.4 million
- FSIS Small Plant Overtime Fee Relief - $5 million
Producer Support and Equity
Issues of racial inequity pervade the foundations of our food system and of the government programs meant to support producers. Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program coordinates outreach to beginning farmers and to farmers who have been excluded by USDA programs because of race. The Office of Urban Agriculture, created by the 2018 Farm Bill, serves to connect urban producers to USDA programs and meet their unique needs. This program is not guaranteed mandatory funding, so an increase in discretionary funding is a hopeful victory for serving urban producers.
- USDA Farmer Outreach Training and Opportunity (FOTO) (2501) - $24 million
- Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production - $8.5 million