Food for a Better Future: Reach out to your candidate!

National Farm to School Network
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August 4, 2022

Food For a Better Future

We believe that universal school meals are a necessity—one that lets school administrators focus on nourishing kids without the red tape that comes with verifying students for free or reduced-priced meals. Universal meals can advance equity in schools by removing the stigma and bullying that may come with eating free or reduced meals, which negatively impacts students’ mental health and learning outcomes. By encouraging higher participation rates in the school meal program, universal meals boost funding for school meal programs. As a result, schools are given the funding to increase the quality of meals through scratch cooking and local procurement initiatives. This way of thinking also benefits cafeteria workers as money is freed up to provide fair compensation and professional development opportunities. The pandemic continues to highlight the urgency of moving toward a more resilient local food supply that builds racial and social equity. A coalition of partners have come up with six key values that collectively work to establish a just, equitable food system that promotes the health of all school children and benefits producers, workers, educators, and their communities:

  1. Economic justice
  2. Environmental justice
  3. Health impact
  4. Prioritizing racial equity
  5. Respecting workers and educators
  6. Animal Welfare

Contact your candidate while they are keen to listen, and tell them about the benefits of values aligned and universal school meals. 

Action 1

Reach out to your candidate

One of the most effective strategies to engage with your state legislators is actually before they are in office, when they are asking for your vote as a candidate running for office. This is a great time to engage with your local representatives because they are less likely to be flooded with requests and priorities on their docket. By reaching out to your local and state candidates about the issues you care about, you can influence them to take action right away once they are elected. 

Although most media tend to cover national elections and legislators, your state and local legislators and government officials also hold substantial power to implement policy and solutions that will directly impact your day-to-day life. And remember, your state legislators want to hear from you! 

As an individual, you can reach out to some or all candidates; 501c3 organizations can consult this guide from the Bolder Advocacy Project to feel confident they are staying on the right side of any relevant rules about who their organization contacts. 

This handy toolkit will provide you with step-by-step instructions, talking points, and further resources for you to reach out to your local candidates. Take 5 minutes TODAY to reach out to your local candidates and let them know that you care about school meals. 

Step-by-step instructions for reaching out to your candidates: 

Step 1 - Find out who your candidates are

Click here and enter your address to find a list of candidates for your state and district.  You may find a long list of candidates, especially if your state has not yet had its 2022 primary elections. Don’t let that overwhelm you! We suggest focusing on state-level candidates from the major viable parties in your area. State and local legislators don't have as many resources to become experts in issues like school meals, so your voice can have an outsized impact by helping to educate them before they take office.

Step 2 - Get their contact info

For some major candidates, you may be able to find their contact info through the link above; for others, google them to find their email on their website or search their name on social media

Step 3 - Send them an email 

Please share with your candidate how values aligned school meals can help advance equity in the food system and benefit everyone in our communities. Let them know why they should support values-aligned universal school meals. It’s easy, just copy and paste the text below into a draft email, and using the email address you found from your detective work, simply hit send.  Add a personal note! As a parent, school nutrition professional, educator, farmer, etc., nothing is more powerful than sharing your first-hand experience about school meals and why they are important to you/your family, and the future of our communities

Email template to candidate: 

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Subject line: School Meals: Can we talk about who’s at the table? 

Message:
I'm a constituent reaching out to share my priorities for school food. Here’s some information around values-aligned universal school meals that would make the whole food system more equitable.

[INSERT: If you wish, insert a few lines of your own experience here, starting with the sentence below- otherwise, you can just delete this line] 

Because of my everyday experiences, I know first hand the need to invest in our child nutrition programs.

You should care about this, because not only is it good for kids, it's good for our whole community. 

Universal, values aligned school meals work in other states because they:

  • Cut red tape. They let school administrators focus on nourishing kids without the red tape that comes with verifying students for free or reduced-priced meals. 
  • Advance equity in schools by removing the stigma and bullying that may come with eating free or reduced meals, which negatively impacts students’ mental health and learning outcomes. 
  • Boost funding which encourages higher participation rates for school meal programs. This can increase the quality of meals through scratch cooking and local procurement initiatives. 
  • Benefit workers in the food system as money is freed up to provide fair compensation and professional development opportunities. The pandemic continues to highlight the urgency of moving toward a more resilient local food supply that builds racial and social equity.  
  • Build a more resilient local food supply that builds racial and social equity

Many states around the country are focusing on legislation around this already, coming from both sides of the aisle, and I hope that you will be a champion for this issue from day one when you take office. 

Thank you for taking time to hear me and for supporting each of our communities. 

Good luck in the upcoming election.

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Step 4 - Tweet your candidate

Open Twitter and copy and paste the tweet you want to use from the suggestions below. To make sure they see it, tag your candidate by typing “@” followed by their Twitter handle.

  • [@handle] Will you fight for food for a better future? I'm a constituent reaching out to share my priorities for school food and we need YOUR support. Will you champion this issue and support the community that feeds our kids? https://www.farmtoschool.org/ #WhosAtTheTable
  • [@Handle] Did you know Values Aligned Universal School meals make the whole food system more equitable? They’re good for kids, workers, our community, and the environment! Will you support this issue when you take office? https://www.farmtoschool.org/ #WhosAtTheTable
  • [@handle] It takes a whole community to ensure our kids are getting tasty and nourishing food at school every day. Will you support the dedicated people who help feed our kids? https://www.farmtoschool.org/ #WhosAtTheTable
  • [@handle] Did you know a fair food system:Cuts red tapeAdvances equity in schoolsBoosts fundingBenefits workersBuilds a more resilient local food supplyWill you support this when you take office? https://www.farmtoschool.org/ #WhosAtTheTable

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