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Act Now to Make School Lunches Better

No. You don’t have to don a hair net and slop “taco pie” onto plates yourself. But you can take some steps to replace that taco pie with a salad bar of local veggies and grassfed meat. But you have to act fast.

The current stimulus plan allows funding for reform of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization act. Congress is currently setting the funding for this. The funding can help get better foods for school lunch programs, perhaps even local food from area farms, a farm-to-school food program.

Read more to learn how to make this possible for your school.

CHILD NUTRITION BUDGET

To help, contact your U.S. senators and your congressional representative and ask them to seek $20 billion over five years for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization in this year’s budget. The budget will be finalized this week.

When you contact them, make sure they know you are a constituent. This is very important as they tend to only respond to constituents. Specify how a farm to school program could benefit your school and why it is important. You can find their contact information at congress.gov.

Second, may schools have outsourced school lunch programs to save costs and many lack equipment in order to prepare better meals. This funding can be used to purchase new equipment like salad bars that make better choices available for kids who need them most.

STIMULUS MONEY FOR SCHOOL KITCHEN EQUIPMENT
The economic stimulus package provides $100 million for school food service equipment grants. Local school food authorities (SFAs) may competitively apply for National School Lunch Program equipment assistance grants. Priority will be given to SFAs in which at least 50 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.

This will require state-level action. Find your contact here and ask this agency to request in their grant application to set aside some of these funds for Farm to School projects, which will help get fresh, local foods in your school.

Finally, you need to talk to your school and ask them to apply for this funding. Given the current state of things, not too many schools will ignore potential to get funding.

Links to Learn More About Stimulus Money, School Lunch, and Farm to School
USDA Memo on 2009 Equipment Assistance Grants for School Food Authorities
Obama Stimulus Targets Fresh, Local Food by Diane Conners
U.S. Congress
Food program highlights in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Many thanks for this information to Deb Eschmeyer, Kellogg Food & Society Policy Fellow, National Farm to School Network.

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