Policy

It’s Back to School Time & Time to Improve the School Lunch Program

By Keith Schildt, Slow Food California Board Member, Southern California Governor

With the end of summer comes our thoughts of students returning to school and a reminder that there is still a lots of work to do to improve the quality of school lunches across the state and the nation .  At the federal level, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) presents an opportunity to make school lunch healthier and more sustainable. The bill is in early legislatives stages in both the House and the Senate and Slow Food USA has been weighing in on key aspects of the bill. We are especially excited to be supporting the Farm to School Act, which among other things will increase annual mandatory funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program from $5 to $15 million (learn more about this proposed legislation here: http://www.farmtoschool.org/documents/F2SAct2019_FactSheet.pdf) and Kids Eat Local Act, which seeks to make it easier for schools to source local food (learn more about the Kids Eat Local Act here Kids Eat Local.

The Slow Food California Policy Committee is supporting legislative advocacy efforts at the federal level by Slow Food USA. For an excellent summary of SFUSA’s position on CNR, see the following link.

At the state level, the SFCA Policy Committee actively supported AB479 – a bill that would establish the climate-friendly “California School Plant-Based Food and Beverage Program” aimed at increasing plant-based food in school lunches. The bill passed through State Assembly and the California State Senate Education committee. It now becomes a 2 year bill.  We also supported AB-958, the Organic to School pilot program which unfortunately did not pass.  We now must work with our allies, including Friends of the Earth and NRDC to advocate with the Governor to ensure that he puts resources in next year’s budget to support healthier, climate friendly school food programs, including the Plant-Based School Food Program and organic food for kids.

WHAT CAN SLOW FOOD MEMBERS ACROSS THE STATE DO TO SUPPORT SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM IMPROVEMENTS?

With October being the official National Farm to School month and with Slow Food USA encouraging engagement with World  Food Day on October 16th, the CA Slow Food Policy Committee suggests chapters consider featuring a school food themed activity in October.   We are happy to help connect you with speakers who can share updates on the national and state school lunch policy initiatives supported by Slow Food California and by SFUSA and ways Slow Food members in your region can get involved.  It could be as simple as organizing a potluck and inviting a few guest speakers, including a local school food director or farmer who is selling produce to local school districts. Or perhaps Slow Food members might want to volunteer in a local school garden project for a day. Please let us know if you want to brainstorm or would like a speaker to come to a local chapter dinner or meeting to share the latest information on upcoming policy opportunities at the state and federal level to increase access to healthy, locally sourced, climate-friendly school food. More details  here. Contact khamerschlag@foe.org if you are interested.

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