Equity in Child Nutrition
We know that kids with access to healthy meals learn better. Communities of color and economically marginalized communities suffer disproportionately when it comes to food insecurity. Equity practices can improve access to meals for all kids.
Learn about equity practices and policies from school districts across our nation who are making efforts to eliminate disparities. By highlighting these districts and communities, we hope to provide a roadmap for those who are just getting started and for those who wish to do more.
In Rockbridge County, school and community members embrace a culture of looking out for each other. Rockbridge County Public School (RCPS) educators and administrators know that students experience their greatest successes when families, the larger community, and the school division work together. To that end, RCPS school leaders are partnering with families and outside organizations to ensure that students have access to school meals regardless of any potential barriers such as language, work schedule, or homes that are in rural, hard-to-reach locations.
Learn from Superintendent Jeff Horton about how their district efforts to lead with equity are improving their ability to reach students and families as individuals.
The Equity tool created by his former district team guides his work at GFW schools. One strategy from that tool is to start by creating a goal for GFW to develop and implement an equity framework and make sure it is included in their district strategic plan for the upcoming school year. Using this approach, they gathered data which revealed academic disparities among communities of color compared to white students in their district. Additionally, this process led to gathering input from the local community and hearing directly from Hispanic/Latinx families
Faribault Public Schools in Minnesota is located South of the Twin Cities. They pride themselves on providing “high quality and equitable education that nurtures, inspires, challenges and empowers students to engage and grow as learners and citizens.” (Mission Statement, Faribault, 2020). They have worked closely as a team to ensure that historically excluded students are included. It was no surprise to learn that they have an equity strategy embedded into their Faribault Public Schools Strategic Plan 2020. The strategic plan, created by staff and community stakeholders, is a guiding document with strategies to serve the community’s needs successfully.
LiveWell Greenville is an impact coalition that works with a network of organizations, such as food agencies, faith communities, early childhood centers, and schools, to ensure access to healthy eating and active living for every Greenville County resident. LiveWell has recognized that community-driven initiatives are needed to support students experiencing food insecurity and to “impact policies, systems, and environmental changes.” In this spotlight on equity, LiveWell Greenville’s Susan Frantz, Partnership Coordinator, shares how they are working to “foster creative solutions to ensure equitable access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food, as well as to advocate for a community-driven food system that improves quality of life.”
Aldine ISD believes that gaining perspectives from people of diverse backgrounds and communities is critical to building a collective vision for student success that celebrates culture. To more adequately represent the neighborhoods served by the district, efforts have been made to hire more staff members who are Hispanic/Latino/x. Family and Community Engagement (FACE) was created as a way to connect authentically with families. Child Nutrition has assisted this effort by teaching a class for parents in English and Spanish called “Free and Reduced Meal Benefits/Servicios de Nutricionde Aldine y los beneficios del programade comidas a precios reducidoso gratuitos” which teaches parents and guardians about Free and Reduced priced applications and benefits, such as Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT).
In this resource, you will learn more about these programs and additional work that Aldine ISD does to create equitable child nutrition programs.
At Operation Food Search, equity is top of mind when serving St. Louis and the surrounding Missouri counties. By putting community first, Operation Food Search has developed nutrition programs that reflect and serve the needs of families across Missouri. This resource spotlights their equity journey and describes how they hope to grow and more equitably serve their families.
We recently sat down with Dr. Larissa Estes White, the Executive director of All IN Alameda County. Launched in 2014, ALL IN Alameda County helps Alameda residents meet their basic needs related to food, shelter, safety, healthcare, and access to quality educational and economic empowerment opportunities that promote self-sufficiency. They do this by recognizing the role that racism and discrimination play in creating persistent poverty, especially among communities of color.
ALL IN Alameda County's primary focus has been increasing access to nutritious food. They have worked on this issue in several different ways, including:
- Leveraging healthcare to increase access to healthy foods by also addressing food insecurity and improving chronic conditions
- Creating local food farmacies
- Engaging in neighborhood-based policy and advocacy
- Developing food recovery programs.
The newest Spotlight on Equity article highlights the Migrant Career Academy Partnership Program from Riverside County Office of Education and their focus on centering and serving migrant students including how students support their community in food security efforts.>
We are pleased to launch our Spotlight on Equity Audio resource by highlighting the work of All In Alameda county (ALL IN). ALL IN are located in Oakland California where they have formed partnerships with many community organization to show how government can work alongside community leaders to eliminate poverty. They help Alameda residents meet their basic needs related to food, shelter, safety, healthcare, and access to quality educational and economic empowerment opportunities that promote self-sufficiency. They do this by recognizing the role that racism and discrimination play in creating persistent poverty, especially among communities of color.
We recently spoke with Dr. Larissa Estes White, the Executive director of All IN Alameda County. She shared their equity journey and how the need to disaggregate data can uncover communities that are consistently missing. She also shared the importance of representation by People of Color in positions of leadership and how this can help guide the work and increase impact. Hear about how ALL IN shifted their strategies to increase food access during the pandemic and how they understand the need to keep innovating and not return to "business as usual."
To read about their Spotlight on Equity story click here.
Episode 2: Spotlight on Equity - FoodCorps
Our latest Spotlight on Equity Conversation was with Morgan McGhee, MPH, RD, Food Corps’ Director of School Nutrition & Leadership. She shared about her background growing up in the south and her career path in Dietetics. It was a delightful conversation in which Morgan’s passion for creating equity in school meals and for Registered Dietitians shined through.
Food Corps is an organization that partners with schools and communities dedicated in nourishing kids, their health, education, and sense of belonging. This comes with the responsibility to practice equitable practices that shift power, resources and access to those most impacted by systemic oppression. She shared the S.H.I.F.T.I.N.G tool created by Food Corps to hold themselves accountable to necessary practices that will lead to justice within their own organization. Listen and learn more about equity in action and how you can use these tools and promising practices to create a more just environment as well.
To learn more about Food Corps’ equity initiatives: https://foodcorps.org/equity-inclusion/
These resources were produced in Spanish and English with intentionality to respect the community that is being highlighted at Esperanza community Farms, who speak primarily in Spanish.
It is with great pleasure that the Center for Best Practices Education and Training team would like to highlight Esperanza Community Farms (ECF).
ECF members are a unique group of farmers, students, and activists interested in changing the world. With intentions to end world hunger- they start by focusing on the land- on an organic farm; where the natural world is ever-present. ECF members learn from nature and share in the bountiful produce they receive from their labor. We invite you to read/hear about their Farm 2 Cafeteria Project where they have partnered with a local high school to bring organic produce to high school students.
They work at creating a healthy, localized food system based on food sovereignty. “Part of being equitable is allowing people to be individuals and to do things in ways that may not align with the status quo but are effective in creating long-term sustainable change.” Mireya Gomez-Contreras Co Leader (Co-Lider)
These resources can help structure feeding programs so that equity is the focus and all communities are included. Creating inclusive meals programs can positively impact key drivers of hunger that are systems of inequity by race, class, gender, ability, etc.
We know that hunger disproportionately affects Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, yet we also know that our programs are not always designed in partnership with these communities, often leaving their needs unmet. This resource features questions that can be used as a set of prompts to take step back and evaluate whether your meal program is designed to reach every child in your community. The questions are meant to be a starting place for ongoing conversations that we should all be having about how we can disrupt systemic racism as an anti-hunger community and design better meals programs that reach every child.
Students and their families are the most important stakeholders in school nutrition programs. These conversation starters can be used to guide conversations with school nutrition staff to:
- identify barriers that students and their families may face in accessing school meals, and
- generate ideas for engaging students and families as partners in designing more equitable meals programs.
Rural schools and community providers utilize their agrarian geographies to bring local fruits, vegetables, and even meats and eggs to their meal programs. This close connection to their local farmers and ranchers has created a system that can overcome common supply chain disruptions, invest in their local economy, and create engaging educational opportunities. Rural communities create these local school food systems by partnering with local and regional businesses, buying directly from farmers, and combining meals with agricultural education.
In this resource you will hear from three different organizations on how they use these local food procurement strategies to create stronger bonds in their communities, purchase local seasonal foods, and create unique educational opportunities for children of all ages.
Use this checklist template to assist in identifying potential gaps and informing your organization’s equity lens. This resource covers actionable steps that can be implemented to plan high-quality events that meet the needs of all. This checklist is not an exhaustive list and can be customized for your training, webinar, or other events.
The out-of-school time (OST) meal programs provide healthy meals and snacks to children when school is out, and when implemented effectively, the programs can be a tool to improve health equity within communities. Policies and program changes that center equity and support the expansion and utilization of OST meal programs are critical to the health and wellness of those most impacted by hunger and food insecurity. By leaning into community-led conversations, stakeholders like state agencies and program providers that administer the OST meal programs can improve nutrition access and foster health equity in their communities.
This brief follows the experience of the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), the administering state agency for the Child Nutrition Programs, and the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families (LPCF), a state-wide advocacy organization, as they developed and implemented a health equity framework in Louisiana OST meal programs.
In this blog post, hear from two Center for Best Practices staff as they share their personal experiences that brought them to this line of work. They speak to why equity is important when designing meal service programs and why it's so significant to the mission of No Kid Hungry.
Equity in school nutrition is a vital part of equity in education. Nebraska Appleseed holds equity dialogue with school districts and communities across the state and those dialogues support increased equity in school nutrition. In this resource, the examples and tools can guide school districts to make their nutrition programs more equitable for all students.
This resource explores the evolving language of food systems and policy work centered on addressing structural racism and inequity. It describes equity-focused terms and frameworks related to the food system, outlines how these terms and frameworks are used in food policy, and provides examples of what they mean in practice
Hear from program providers and advocates as they recount how they are creating more inclusive programming. These workshops and webinars highlight communities seeking diversity, equity, and inclusion in all their meal service programs.
This interactive workshop featured school nutrition staff and community partners who work together to create inclusive school meals programs, specifically assessing and removing barriers students may face in accessing meals programs. The speakers provided insight into actionable items that school nutrition departments may implement in their own communities.
How can communities best organize to build just and sustainable food systems? What structural and historic racial inequities are at play that perpetuate hunger and poverty, and how can federal programs intended to serve those in need be more racially equitable in their design and implementation? Hear from two leading thinkers as they engage in conversation around the connection between racial equity and justice in our food system, social safety net, and society at large.
In 2021, the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families centered health equity in developing and launching programs and policy changes to improve access to nutritious meals for Lousiana children. Watch this webinar to learn how they did it and how your program can apply their experience and learnings to ensure children receive the nutrition they need to learn and thrive.
Rural Child Hunger Summit
In order to understand food insecurity, we must understand the impact of the social policies and practices that both create and combat the inequities we seek to address. This session will unpack the historic inequity on which the food system in the United States was built and provide an overview of how whiteness continues to dominate food systems policy and practice today. Those issues have become even more clear over the last year, as COVID-19 exacerbated the historic and systemic inequity inherent in our food system. As such, we will explore two federal programs, WIC and SNAP, the impact of COVID-19 on navigating those programs and provide recommendations for policy, practice, and organizational changes that have the potential to impact rural child hunger.
During this session, you hear the personal stories of some outstanding young leaders in the food justice movement who are transforming their rural communities. They highlight their youth-powered projects and programs that have trained and empowered them to take on leadership roles in their communities. This session will conclude with an overview of Yes! for Equity’s adult leader training and a discussion on how to harness the energy of youth to develop creative solutions to build equitable food systems.
“[Traditional food is] more than just calories. It’s something that has traditional and cultural significance. It’s something that when you eat it your mind is at home.” – Sam Schimmel, Operation Fish Drop
This keynote address features Dr. Sara Bleich, the Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity at the USDA, and Dr. Veronica Womack, a Political Scientist and Black Farmers Advocate. This session explores the health disparities in rural America and specifically the Blackbelt region of the rural south. Dr. Bleich and Dr. Womack share their personal experiences with the federal nutrition programs and how the USDA and community programs are seeking to introduce nutrition security and health equity in rural communities.
“When rural communities thrive, America thrives” – Dr. Sara Bleich, USDA
“One of the things I often tell people, when you are in the room of decision making. Look around the room, are you comfortable with everyone that’s there? And if your answer is yes then you need to expand the circle.” – Dr. Veronica Womack
This series hosted by Share Our Strength and the Food & Society at the Aspen Institute examines the roots and evolution of the food movement and the ways it intersects with race and class, as well as with educational, environmental, and health inequities. Follow this series and watch all the previous webinars here.
February 2021—Racism, Hunger and Health