Nutrition & School Meals

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.


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. Today, we remain focused on increasing access to healthy, high quality school meals for all students. Our priorities include
  1. Universal free school meals for all students and elimination of meal debt policies that shame or humiliate students
  2. Funding for farm to school programs, kitchen equipment upgrades, infrastructure improvements and staff training, to support cooking from scratch and the use of salad bars;
  3. Processing and procurement grants that enable more fresh, locally-grown, whole foods to be served in school cafeterias;
  4. Uphold standards for high-quality, high-nutrition meals and eliminate the sale of competetive foods in school cafeterias;
  5. Funding, curriculm, and policies that support active school garden programs;
  6. Wellness policies that provide families with helpful nutrition information;
  7. Wellness & School Meal Committees that provide a forum for students, parents, staff and interested community members to provide input on school meal 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.

? EXPANDED ACCESS! In 2022 Virginia PTA successfully advocated for extension of the federal free school meal waivers through summer 2022 including grab-and-go options and $8.2 million of state funding to help local school divisions eliminate the cost of school meals for students who are eligible for reduced-price meals based on federal income criteria



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.