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Policy and Advocacy

Secured for permanent funding of School Meals for All in the 2021–22 California Budget

Policy and Advocacy

Policy and advocacy efforts that support and inspire sustainable school communities.

Thoughtfully designed and implemented policies create conditions that ensure students flourish and thrive. Schools play a critical role in children's health and we are proud to be a part of California's leadership in elevating the importance of school meals for all. The Center for Ecoliteracy works with school districts and partners at the local, state, and national level. California Food for California Kids® advances policy solutions that transform school food systems and how students learn about the food they eat. 

The Center for Ecoliteracy, along with a coalition of over 200 organizations, partnered with California State Senator Nancy Skinner to successfully advocate for the adoption of School Meals for All in the California budget, making California the first state in the nation to enact such a policy. This $650 million annual investment will enable California public schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to every student, permanently. The state policy will provide continuity for families when the federal waivers that have allowed for every child to eat for free during the coronavirus pandemic expire in June 2022. 

In addition to co-leading the School Meals for All Coalition, the Center for Ecoliteracy focuses on advocating for Farm to School and securing essential funding to help schools realize the full potential of school meals. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated child hunger and challenged decades of progress in serving fresh, local school meals and teaching students where and how food is sustainably grown.

In response, the Center for Ecoliteracy joined with school districts and allied organizations, including The Office of Kat Taylor, NextGen California, the California School Employees Association, and the California Association of Food Banks, to advocate for Farm to School, grants for staff training and kitchen infrastructure, and budget deficit relief for school nutrition departments in the 2021–22 California budget. We secured $150 million in one-time funding for training and equipment to serve freshly prepared meals at school and $30 million for Farm to School. In addition to supporting sustainable food procurement, this funding will support projects that provide nutrition education, experiential lessons on the food system, and exposure to local agriculture and seasonal foods.

This advocacy builds on our successes in the 2020–21 budget to secure $192 million for California schools’ COVID-19 food response and $10 million for Farm to School programming. Other past efforts include supporting Farm to School innovators through the creation of the California-Grown Fresh School Meals Grant Program. This program, championed by Senator Skinner, included $1.5 million of state funding in 2017–2018 and an additional $1 million in 2018–2019.

Previous policy successes include a collaboration with Oakland Unified School District to secure $475 million from a local bond measure for school facilities — including a new Central Kitchen, Instructional Farm, and Education Center — with nearly 84% approval from Oakland voters in 2012. 

Our commitment to policy and advocacy has influenced national change. From 1999–2002, as a leader in The Food Systems Project, the Center for Ecoliteracy co-developed the nation’s first district-wide school wellness policy. This included the adoption of instructional gardens in every Berkeley elementary school, fresh produce in school lunchrooms, and the commitment that no child would go hungry during the school day. This policy is credited with providing inspiration and proof-of-concept for the 2004 federal mandate requiring all districts participating in the National School Lunch Program to adopt wellness policies.

I am grateful for the Center for Ecoliteracy’s critical advocacy and leadership to make California the first state to enact free school meals for all students.
Senator Nancy Skinner