School Meals: 

Who's at the Table?

Policymakers, parents, farmers, produce suppliers, school principal, cafeteria manager, and student sitting around a table meeting about a universal values-aligned school meal

Now is the time to invest in nourishing school meals for all kids—and value everyone who gets it to their table. Just as farm to school is a triple win for kids, farmers and communities, policies that expand healthy school meals with our six shared community values benefit us all.

Our Six Shared Community Values

Get To Know The Players

Have you ever really thought about all the people involved when getting food from the farm, producer or supplier to our kids' lunchroom? Let’s introduce you to the people, who they are, and what they care about.

Hover over each person to learn more

Policy Maker

First step, create the FAQ accordion structure.

I got into politics because I wanted to make a difference and to serve my community so I want to hear from you, my constituents. Since I represent many kinds of people, I want to find solutions where multiple parties ‘win’. I support job creation and job opportunities, and values aligned school meals can lead to economic and workforce development. Targeted interest groups like large scale farmers have helped me get elected and I want and need their ongoing support. However, this doesn't mean that I will shy away from hard conversations just to get it. In my view, universal school meals that care about the whole food system are good for business, as well as for our kids and our communities.

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Principal

First step, create the FAQ accordion structure.

As principal, my main role revolves around balancing the school budget and the bottom line. I want to keep my kids in school and I need to keep them focused, striving to support learning and happiness in the corridors. But I’ve also learned that the reality is, my job is at risk when my school has low performing students & staff. Healthy food in school leads to better attendance and test performance, and I want to be part of the solution that provides a clear path to school success for my kids. Despite wanting the best for my kids and staff, my job requires me to balance changes causing a strain on existing school infrastructure and I'm worried about the additional budget that I may have to find. COVID has already created additional logistical burdens and we don’t always have the budget and staffing levels to make drastic changes.

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Cafeteria Manager

First step, create the FAQ accordion structure.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and when it comes to school nutrition, food service folks are the frontline workers. Feeding them is my passion and career choice, that being said, I can only do so much with what I'm given. For everything to come together properly, parents have to be happy with the food quality–which isn’t always in my control and budgets have to line up.  COVID waivers allowed us to provide universal meals to all students, which cut down on the red tape so I could focus on what I love - feeding kids. I try to put together great meals for the kids, and ask them how their day is going, my job isn’t only about the food.

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Student

First step, create the FAQ accordion structure.

I saw this Tik Tok where they shared the meals that kids get at school in other countries, and it was so cool. I want to get involved, and make changes happen.  During COVID times, everyone got free school meals and it was just easier, without side orders of red tape and embarrassment.  One thing that bugs me and my friends is that lunch happens super early in the day, like around 10:30 am, so whatever I eat needs to be hearty, as by the time I get home, I’M STARVING.  It would be cool if our lunches were even remotely selfie ready like the ones in other countries. I follow a few foodies on Insta, and some of them are other kids who go to high-end schools— the food looks incredible, and like it would actually taste amazing. So, like, where does that food even come from? Where does our food come from?

TAKE ACTION
First step, create the FAQ accordion structure.

Parent

Like many parents, I work long hours. I frequently worry about the quality of food my daughter gets when I’m not there, so I try to send her to school full with a nutritious breakfast, and either with a healthy lunch that I’ve prepared or money to buy something from the cafeteria. But left to her own devices, Im pretty sure she isn’t always making the best choices, and part of this is based on the options the school has available. I’m glad when school meals reinforce the healthy habits I try to instill at home. I want my kid to be eating nutritious, delicious “brain food” while she’s in school, because that’s where she’s supposed to be using her brain!

TAKE ACTION
First step, create the FAQ accordion structure.

Produce Supplier

We supply restaurants, grocery store chains, universities, military outlets, but our favorite delivery stops are schools. Partnering with both local growers and suppliers allows us to make sure  the product schools want are available, and to supply clients with the best and freshest produce  there is. We work hard to guarantee great quality, and we also care about the environment, how far food travels, and fair labor and wages for all our employees. We want to see a market in which we can all continue to thrive, offer a great working environment to our team and great service to all our clients, especially the kids.

TAKE ACTION
First step, create the FAQ accordion structure.

Farmers & 
Farm Workers

As an Indigenous, family farmer, I am a steward of this land and my work has always been climate focused, in ways that ‘Big Ag’ just can’t be. I can’t see the point of trucking food thousands of miles when we grow great food right here. I want to see my food served in local schools, but it’s hard to compete with large corporations; I need to get a fair price for the work I do well, so I can pay a living wage to my workers, and be a part of solutions around good farming and labor practices. I wish the government would support us more and that the USDA would fund sustainable practices, but it’s hard to be heard as a small farmer and I'd love to see that change.

TAKE ACTION

Build Your Own Meal Game

Learn about the real world impacts of what gets served in school meals and what it takes to get it to our plates!

Learn How You
Can Take Action
Learn How You Can Take Action

Press

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

December 2022

California’s free school meal program has changed my life and transformed the school day for six million students in our state. Without the burden of being responsible for buying and creating nutritional meals for myself, I can better focus on my education and positions as a student leader. Therefore, I believe all states should follow in the footsteps of California.

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

September 2022

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.

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Opinion: Nutrition waivers are needed to keep feeding hungry students in South Bay this fall

July 2022

Last year in California, the Healthy School Meals for All legislation was passed. This means the state will cover the cost of two nutritious meals each day for all children beginning in the 2022-23 school year. Just as every child receives a textbook, each will receive a meal as well with hopes to reduce hunger and remove stigma for students in accessing meals.

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Opinion: The cost of a lunch should not stand in the way of Colorado schoolchildren

June 2022

Groups like the National Farm to School Network have been campaigning to ensure that our school meals are aligned with values like economic justice and respecting workers and educators. The measures in Colorado will lead the way, nationally, on these issues, and inspire states across the country to follow suit. Schools will be able to provide healthy meals and do more scratch cooking.

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Schools should avail of state funding to serve more freshly prepared and locally grown food

May 2022

Through the pandemic, we’ve learned how crucial school food is to America’s food supply. We’ve also learned how many school-age children and families depend on these meals. And we’ve learned how important our school food professionals are. Scratch cooking makes staff feel appreciated for their effort, and children are well-nourished and ready to learn.

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More folks than you would think.

Values-aligned universal meals is a new way of thinking about the entire system that feeds our kids. From schools to policymakers to parents to farmers, and more–it takes a community to ensure quality foods are passed down the table to students every day, in a sustainable way.

Who are the people involved at the universal values-aligned school meal table
1
Policymakers
“My goal is to create opportunities across communities by ending school hunger.”
2
Parents
“I'm glad when school meals reinforce the healthy habits I try to instill at home.”
3
Farmers / Farm Workers
“Kids are smart—they taste the care we put into our local produce.”
4
Produce Suppliers
“Our process is steeped in values: local, sustainable, and fresh.”
5
School Principals
“Fresh food is just like textbooks - both are necessary to succeed.”
6
Cafeteria Managers
“Paper work and budget restrictions make things hard, but I juggle these to do what I love—keeping kids nourished.”
7
Students
"When the food is good and we know where it's coming from, no one is embarrassed to eat it."

If you agree with the importance of Values-Aligned School Meals, share these tools below to start a conversation about how food gets to our kids—hand to hand, farm to table.

Soon, we'll be sharing stories, resources, and ways to get involved in our values-aligned school meals campaign.

Let's make sure we feed our kids. Every single one.

Find the food suppliers of healthy school meals
“It’s good for the land, good for animals, good for growers, good for schools, good for kids and families, good for the community. It’s people treating one another decently.”
Source: Agricultural Producers’ Toolkit Case Study: Building Sustainable Relationships with School Nutrition Programs

Dig in! Learn more about Values-Aligned Universal School Meals.

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