Advocate for Healthy School Meals & Food Security

Childhood hunger is linked to academic struggles, difficulties focusing and concentrating, mental health disorders, and increased behavioral referrals. School meals help close the nutrition gap that exists for low-income families and plays a critical role in youth dietary behaviors. In Virginia 1.3 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program and 45.59% of our students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. Research from the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research indicates that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic Virginia's food insecurity rose 12.5% to 22.5% (or more than one in five people) during the April-May 2020 timeframe. The negative impacts of COVID-19 – on school schedules, school budgets, employment, the economy, and food insecurity – will be long-lasting, and will not end when the calendar year ends. As child hunger grows, it's important to maintain consistency and easy access to nutricious meals.

PTA IMPACT

mealwaiversPTA has a long history of advocating for access to healthy nutricious meals for children. PTA advocacy resulted in the creation of hot school lunches and in 2021 we remain focused on advocating for legislation and wellness policies which:
  1. Include measurable goals and standards regarding child nutrition including eliminating the sale of competetive foods in school cafeterias;
  2. Expand access to school meals, including programs that increase meal availability and eliminate meal debt policies that shame or humiliate students;
  3. Implement wellness policies that provide families with helpful nutrition information and which provide an opportunity for students, parents, staff and interested community members to provide input on school meal programs; and
  4. Increase locally grown foods served in school cafeterias and encourage school garden programs.
🍎 FREE SCHOOL MEALS! During 2020 Virginia PTA joined 1,380 associations including several Virginia school divisions in a joint letter to the USDA requesting that free school meals continue to be offered to all students until June 30, 2021 and again called on the USDA to expand access to free school meals through the end of the 2021-2022 school year. 
 
🍎 EXPANDED ACCESS! During 2020 & 2021 Virginia PTA successfully advocated for:
  • Legislation that requires eligible school divisions to participate in the USDA's federal after-school meal program
  • Legislation that requires eligible school divisions to particiate in the USDA's Community Eligibility Program. (When your school participates in the USDA's Community Eligibility Program (CEP) it means EVERY student receives free breakfast and lunch -- there is no paper work for parents to complete, no stigma for students and less time in cashier lines and processing paperwork for school staff.) 
  • Legislation that prohibited school boards from filing a lawsuit against a student's parent because the student cannot pay for a meal at school or owes school meal debt.
  • Local food and farming infrastructure grant programs that support local food production and sustainable farming which expands acess to locally grown foods being served in school cafeterias.

>> GET FOOD ASSISTANCE

ADVOCATE FOR HEALTHY SCHOOL MEALS & REDUCE FOOD INSECURITY

Start advocating for the students in your community by sharing information about how to access food assistance programs and work to reduce stigma about eating school meals and free/reduced price meals.

Your PTA may also like to consider hosting a Family Tasting Night or partnering with your School Social Worker to host of food drive or start a program that connects families with meals over weekends and school breaks.

Help #TakeAction4Kids and #ChildHungerPrevention by speaking at Board of Supervisor or School Board meetings, emailing your legislators, getting active on social media, writting letters to editor, joining a virtual rally or attend Virginia PTA's Capitol Day.  

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