Universal Meals Policies Can Strengthen a Just and Resilient Local Food System

National Farm to School Network
December 19, 2022

Are you an advocate of universal school meals for all children? The National Farm to School Network has released a new resource as part of our “Who’s At the Table?” campaign, created to support the work of NFSN Partners, food system researchers, advocates, and policymakers.

This short report highlights 14 states that have introduced universal meals legislation. By the end of 2022, six states have enacted universal meals, three of which are permanent policies. This report demonstrates a strong connection between these state policies and farm to school: 10 of the 14 states that have introduced universal meals legislation (79%) have also enacted at least one policy that supports local food purchasing. Several states go above and beyond in supporting local purchases and include additional values in their programs, such as purchasing from BIPOC and other emerging farmers. This report outlines how universal meals policies, local ingredients, and values-based purchasing can create a just and resilient food system.

*Updated April 1, 2023: National Farm to School Network has continued tracking universal meals policies since this report was released in December 2022. In the first weeks of the new legislative session, state-level universal meals policies swept the nation and the momentum has continued. As of April 1, 2023, at least 30 states and the District of Columbia have introduced policies to advance free, healthy school meals for all students.

Download and read the full report below, and learn how you can be involved.


Karen Spangler, Policy Director

Cassandra Bull, Policy Intern

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