Ten months in, 2019 has been full of exciting farm to school policy wins, challenges, and opportunities. Now that we’ve gone through another successful National Farm to School Month and have begun to look towards 2020, I want to pause, reflect and celebrate what we’ve accomplished so far this year, together.
In early 2019, while catching our breath from the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, we were jolted back into action by Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) February announcement of his desire to write a child nutrition reauthorization (CNR). Advocates around the country, including us at the National Farm to School Network, quickly became ready to gear up for another journey towards a new CNR. Child nutrition bills have not been reauthorized (government speak for rewriting a package of bills) since 2010, when sweeping changes were made to school meals, including new comprehensive nutrition standards, adoption of the Community Eligibility Provision, and - a gold star on our list - the beginning of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program.
Since February, we’ve made major strides and had some big wins in advocating for strong farm to school priorities in the next CNR:
- We hosted a series of listening sessions to hear from farm to school advocates about how CNR can better support their efforts.
- In partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, we championed the introduction of two signature bills - the Farm to School Act of 2019 and the Kids Eat Local Act - that directly address the feedback and needs we’ve heard from farm to school stakeholders. As of today, the Farm to School Act has 17 cosponsors and the Kids Eat Local Act has 22 cosponsors. Both bills have strong bipartisan support, a beautiful example of how our advocacy can push Congress to work together for good.
- In September, we hosted three farm to school advocates on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers from Arkansas and Kansas about the importance of farm to school. Our fly-in was made possible with the generous support of the Johnson Family Foundation - thank you!
- We have deepened relationships with national partners including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and Food Corps, both of whom have led advocacy efforts alongside us and offered tremendous support. Additional thanks goes out to original endorsers of our farm to school bills, including American Heart Association, Union of Concerned Scientists, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Food Corps, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Education Association, and the National Farmers Union.
- Our online petitions in support of our two bills have gathered more than 800 signatures from individuals and organizations. You can still sign on!
- And, the US Senate passed a resolution declaring October 2019 National Farm to School Month! The US House did this in 2010, and we love bicameral support for a great cause!
Will you help us take it even further? The future of farm to school is in our hands, and everyday is an opportunity to transform our food system. While we wait to see a draft CNR bill, there’s work that can still be done:
- Add your name and/or your organization to our letters to Congress, then share with a friend (or many friends).
- Share your farm to school work on social media and tag us - @farmtoschool / #farmtoschool - and your members of Congress. Ask them to support the Farm to School Act and Kids Eat Local Act.
- Reach out to your members of Congress to urge their support for our bills (lobbying) or simply educate them on the state of farm to school in your community (not lobbying).
The heart of our work at the National Farm to School Network is not policy or programs, it’s people - kids, farmers, communities, and everyone in between. What policy matters matter to you, and how can the National Farm to School Network support your interests? I want to know! Connect with me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. The power of our network is in partners like you who are working for change. As we continue to organize and advocate for strong policy, let’s remember that we’re ultimately advocating for ourselves, for each other, for our children, and for our futures. Onward and upward, together!