This week, the Biden-Harris administration unveiled its National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. And guess what? They included healthy school meals for all! We think this is a huge victory, however, the strategy doesn’t push for healthy school meals for all right now. Instead, it includes a “pathway” with steps to make healthy school meals for all a reality by 2032 which, obviously, is 10 years away.
For what it’s worth, we are all for taking steps to get to the best possible outcome for students in North Carolina and across the country. In our opinion, the first and most important step should be to ensure every student in every public school has access to school meals at no cost regardless of family income, as they have for the past two years. This needs to happen NOW. Not in ten years. North Carolina kids can’t wait.
Once every child in public schools has access to school meals at no cost, then it’s ok to move on to the other strategies to “advance a pathway to free healthy school meals for all”. The White House strategy includes “efforts to increase access to local and regional food systems.” We said this very same thing two years ago in our food policy roadmap, Secure Families, Farms, and Communities. We continue to advocate for farm-to-school programs and the ability of schools to purchase local items. We love this strategy because it invests in local economies and supports local food systems
Other key provisions of the White House’s strategy include investing in the school nutrition program workforce. If you’ve been with us for any length of time, you know we’ve been advocating for wage increases and state funding for school nutrition staff and increasing funding in general for school nutrition programs. The strategies that have been laid out by the Biden-Harris administration are in-line with the strategies and policies that NCAH and our partners have been advocating for on a state level for many years. It’s encouraging that the White House shares our commitment to ensuring everyone has access to healthy food.
We will admit that we haven’t been actively advocating for scratch-made meals, but we agree this would be beneficial. You know that saying, “Perfect is the enemy of the good?” We feel like this saying fits the White House’s strategy. If we wait until we get the whole system perfect, we will have missed out on a lot of good that school meals for all could be doing NOW. Kids can’t wait until 2032.