Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization - 2022

Shifting Power for a Racially Just Food System through Federal Policy

Farm to school is a common sense approach to child nutrition that has the opportunity to advance racial equity in the food system and benefit everyone in our communities. 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. As Congress takes up the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR), 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 racially just food system.

Together with our network of partners and supporters across the country, we call on all Members of Congress to show their commitment to the well-being of our nation’s kids, family farmers, and food-producing communities by strengthening farm to school and advancing racial equity opportunities in the next CNR. Here’s how.

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Federal Farm to School Policies

What is CNR? The Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization ("CNR") authorizes federal school meal and child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, among others. The package of bills that make up CNR is meant to be reauthorized every five years, but the last CNR to pass was the Health, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. That makes this upcoming CNR a once-in-a-decade opportunity to strengthen the programs that feed our nation's kids.

We believe that building the next CNR on these six shared community values will move us closer to a just, equitable food system that promotes the health of all school children and benefits producers, workers, educators, and their communities:

  • Economic justice: Farm to school and ECE isn’t just about food miles, it’s about the livelihoods of the people who grew, harvested, processed, and prepared this food. We have the chance to build relationships between producers, workers, and consumers in ways that enrich communities and address economic racial injustices.
  • Environmental justice: Education and the purchasing power of meal programs can shift our food system away from practices that contribute to climate change and pollute communities of color, and towards a more equitable, sustainable use of our soil and water.
  • Health impact: Farm to school and ECE activities go beyond getting kids the calories they need, but also give them the tools for childhood nourishment and lifelong health. In addition to key nutrients provided by school meals, kids should be empowered with the knowledge and skills to build healthy habits later in life and increase their sovereignty in our food system. School nutrition professionals should receive the equipment, training, and operational support to increase whole-ingredient, scratch cooking of healthier and tasty meals.
  • Prioritizing racial equity: Progress towards a just food system requires us to address the historic and ongoing structural racism embedded in our food system and to actively promote food sovereignty and racial equity in farm to school and ECE activities.
  • Respecting workers and educators: School nutrition professionals play essential roles in promoting fresh, healthy foods for our kids. The workers who harvest, process, transport, prepare and serve the vast majority of our nation’s food supply deserve -- but don’t currently have -- the same legal protections as workers in other industries in our country. Policies and practices should respect their rights and value their work appropriately.
  • Animal welfare: Humane treatment of animals in food production is a key part of a respectful, relational – not extractive – food system. Inhumane conditions in meat and poultry production are intertwined with the corporate consolidation of our food system, and the prioritization of cheaply produced meat at the expense of animal welfare, worker safety, farmer livelihoods, and community health.

In order for these values to be realized, it is important that the most impacted stakeholders in our communities have a core role in the development and implementation of the next CNR.

Our Platform for CNR 2022

We call on legislators to realize these values through a Child Nutrition Reauthorization that:

  • Increases access to healthy school and early care and education (ECE) meals for all kids
  • Increases reimbursement levels for school meals and early childhood nutrition: Current reimbursement levels are insufficient to allow nutrition professionals to maximize the health and economic impact that they could have through these programs
  • Increases the values alignment of child nutrition program purchasing and operations by:
    > Allowing greater flexibility for child nutrition providers to prioritize local and values-based purchasing
    > Undertaking important supply chain reforms of the USDA Foods system that buys and distributes products to schools
    > Investing in school nutrition professionals with training, skilled professional opportunities, and worker support
  • Considers the racial equity impacts of all child nutrition policies, including improvements to existing child nutrition policies and proposed bills that equitably prioritize communities of color and BIPOC producers
  • Strengthens the reach and equitable access of the federal Farm to School Grant Program

Policy Solutions We Endorse

  • Triple funding and ensure equitable access to the successful USDA Farm to School Grant Program with the Farm to School Act of 2021. Learn more here.
  • Increase immediate opportunities for local- and values-based procurement by supporting: 
    - The Kids Eat Local Act, which would make it easier for schools to source local food for school meals. Learn more here.
    - The Local School Foods Expansion Act which gives schools in 14 states more flexibility to purchase more fresh, local, unprocessed or minimally processed fruit and vegetables for school meals through expanding the successful Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program.
    - The Small Farm to School Act, which would create a federal pilot of local procurement incentives that give school meal programs more resources to shift to local producers.
  • Expand scratch cooking training and infrastructure by supporting:
    - The Scratch Cooked Meals for Students Act, which would provide grant funding for culinary training and technical assistance, kitchen equipment, and infrastructure, prioritizing grants to school districts with a high percentage of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch and districts with labor agreements. Learn more here.
    - The School Food Modernization Act, which would provide the funding needed for schools to upgrade their kitchen equipment. Learn more here.
  • Support our littlest eaters and their early care and education (ECE) providers with improvements to the Child and Adult Care Food Program, including:
    - The Early Childhood Nutrition Improvement Act, which would streamline administrative burdens for providers, making it easier for them to participate in CACFP. Learn more here.
    - The Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act, which would increase access to CACFP for kids in day care homes and provide funding for an additional meal or snack on long days. Learn more here.
  • Recognize the right of every child to nourishing meals by supporting the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021 to make school breakfasts and lunches free for all children. Learn more here.

Take Action

  • Tell your Members of Congress that you want to see these priorities included in the next CNR
  • Learn more about Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization and what we're advocating for this year on our blog
  • Download this fact sheet outlining the research-based benefits of farm to school
  • Join our network to receive our newsletters and stay up-to-date on farm to school policy new and action opportunities

Have questions about National Farm to School Network's advocacy and priorities for the next Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization?
Contact our Policy Staff here.