School Lunch For All is an integrated campaign working to expose the broken school nutrition system and ensure school meals are provided, free of charge, to every K to 12 student in America. Through authentic storytelling, expert mobilization, and applied nationwide pressure demanding legislative reform, this layered campaign works to unearth the bad practices of school districts around the country, call out inadequate policies at the state and federal level, elevate families in hardship, and create a plan for the future of school nutrition. The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly shifted the direction of our work, providing both an exacerbated need and grievous opportunity to call for immedaite action.
The creative work was designed to educate and inform in a dynamic yet digestible manner, inviting the average citizen and young people into the conversation about our nation's troubled school nutrition system and solutions. We worked to ensure the complexities and obstacles with the school nutrition space were presented in a way that was direct and easily accessible to individuals across a multitude of demographics. Our early investigative work proved that most people didn't really understand what was happening due to the layers of defunct policy and lack of consistency, often within the same state. From there, the work shifted to awareness and community building. Our partnerships with those such as Marsai Martin, Urban School Food Alliance, and Student Voice were integral in creating and expanding an informed community behind this effort, allowing us to shift the narrative and ultimately influence legislative action and policy decisions.
Our goals started out centered on create a campaign that changed the cultural and political perception of universal school meals ultimately eliminating the existing school lunch debt and responsible system. As the COVID-19 pandemic arose and continued to expand in our early developmental stages, we quickly changed our focus to showcasing the direct connection between the growing hunger crisis, needs for immediate and comprehensive pandemic relief, and alleviating the pressures on students and families to provide for school meals.
The impacts of our campaign continue to grow and evolve alongside the uncertainty and damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We started by building a broad reaching cultural understanding and support for universal school meals by altering the narrative. Our collaborations with young leaders like Marsai Martin and the student-led coalition, Student Voice, helps us create digestible content to help explain a complex issue and system.
Just last year, universal school meals were facing notable opposition from both Democratic and Republican leadership, but that tide is quickly shifting as more and more elected officials realize the importance of such programming. Our close collaboration with Chairman Bobby Scott, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, and others resulted in the July 2020 introduction of the Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act, as detailed in our August virtual briefing. This event featured the Congresswoman alongside our other partners Marsai Martin, Urban School Food Alliance, Student Voice, and the Howard family of Indiana as we further explored the impacts of our failing school nutrition system and the contrasting opportunities presented in the new bill. The bill did not garner the support to pass last year as conflicts continued to rise around the next relief package in Congress but set a sturdy stage for new legislative movements to stand up. While most new initiatives are still being presented as COVID-19 pandemic relief and outline short-term universal programs designed to provide for students and families during an assumed temporary hardship (HB 1413 in North Dakota), the growing support is undeniable. Some of the biggest efforts introduced recently leverage language introduced in our campaign earlier last year and result in moments like the New York Times quoting that schools should be providing students with free meals, "regardless of their family’s income, in the way bus rides or textbooks are." Others even adopted names mirroring our campaign like SB 364, School Meals for All introduced in the the California State Senate this month. Our team remains dedicated to this work and is in the process of resetting and continuing the fight alongside our growing network of supporters.
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