2024 Public Benefits Access in Schools Convening

General Information

No Kid Hungry hosted the Public Benefits Access Through Schools Convening from April 9-10, 2024, in Washington, D.C. This in-person, two-day event brought together education and anti-hunger stakeholders to advance access to public benefits for students and families through the school system.

No Kid Hungry supports efforts to connect federal nutrition programs and public benefits to school systems, meeting families where they are in trusted school spaces to increase access to food and financial resources. Through national cohorts and partnerships, No Kid Hungry is identifying the best practices for leveraging school systems to increase access to benefits and increase the support and resources schools and educators have for children and families in their communities.


View the agenda

To learn more and view session descriptions for the plenaries and breakout sessions, view the agenda by clicking the link below.

Session Slide Decks

Day 1 Breakfast Plenary: Where Schools & Families Meet: Perspectives on Schools as Connectors

In this conversation, held in two parts, we heard from people situated where families and schools meet. Speaking with parents and those liaising with families, we heard about the different ways that schools can be powerful connectors for families, the opportunities to do this work better, and challenges that remain to be addressed. From the perspectives of families and school staff, we discussed what is needed to make schools as effective as possible in linking families to critical resources.

How Federal Benefits Support Schools — Impact & Opportunities

Federal benefit enrollment supports students, families, schools, and communities in many ways. In this session, participants heard about how enrollment in benefit programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid, impacts childhood nutrition programs both during and outside of school time as well as student funding. They also gained some perspective on policy and implementation approaches to connect students and families to federal benefits through schools.

Schools as a Vehicle for Addressing Food Insecurity

This panel discussion explored how challenges around food insecurity impact student learning, attendance, and parent engagement. Areas of progress and regress were also discussed from both an urban and rural landscape as well as local and regional perspectives. Partnerships are a critical component to this work. To that end, the panelists highlighted local and statewide partners that understand community need and work with and within schools to systemize and formalize approaches, interventions, and results.

SNAP in Schools: Approaches and Best Practices

Learn from schools and community-based organizations about their on-the-ground work to connect families with SNAP and other public benefits through school settings. Speakers shared their approaches to collaborative partnership, building SNAP awareness, identifying and referring families for application assistance, and their vision for the future of this model.

Community Schools: Nourishing Minds, Amplifying Access

Are you tired of theoretical strategies? Do you want to learn how best practices are being implemented on the ground? If so, this session is for you! Join us as we explore the vital role Community Schools play in increasing access to public benefits. Through an interactive panel discussion, participants engaged with on-the-ground practitioners to learn tips and tricks for partnering with their local schools, as well as valuable insights and action steps that can be implemented in their own communities.

Day 1 Lunch Plenary – Leading the Charge: Transforming Policy and Education Systems for Public Benefits Access through Schools

Join us for an insightful panel discussion aimed at exploring the intersection of education systems, public policies, and efforts to combat food insecurity. As we delve into the pressing issue of access to public benefits for families, our esteemed panelists, representing leaders from policy, education, and anti-hunger sectors, illuminated the current landscape and shed light on why school settings serve as pivotal platforms for providing support. Let’s envision a future where strong leadership and national initiatives ensure every child and their families have equitable access to the nutrition and support they need to thrive.

Smarter, not Harder: Building Relationships between Schools and Anti-Hunger Organizations to Increase SNAP Access

Helping families access food is a big job. Luckily, there’s no reason any organization has to take on that job alone. Learn from school and Food Bank staff across the country how their partnerships with one another got started, and how they leverage their strengths to make sure families can get the food they need.

Youth Engagement in Public Benefits Access

This session highlighted a youth engagement project in the Coachella Valley, where migrant students worked to increase enrollment in CalFresh benefits. After hearing from Dinora, our student representative, attendees participated in an interactive workshop to brainstorm youth inclusion in their own bodies of work. Whether there is no experience or a lot of experience in youth engagement, this session met participants where they are to engage students in this work.

Leveraging School-Based Health Centers for Public Benefits Access

In this session, attendees gained awareness of the unique role that school-based health centers (SBHC) can play in connecting youth and families with public benefits programs. National and state level technical assistance providers offered lessons learned from SBHCs on the ground working to integrate nutrition assistance into SBHC services. Presenters discussed models for screening families, providing referrals or application assistance and tracking enrollment, sharing lessons learned and challenges encountered along the way. Key partnerships and opportunities to work collaboratively with your local SBHC were highlighted, as well as methods for engaging youth in this work.

Advocating for Increased Access to Public Benefits in Schools

Advocacy can play a critical role in increasing public benefits access in schools, and advocates like you have the ability to drive impact at all levels of government. Learn from No Kid Hungry partners as they discuss federal, state, and local advocacy campaigns that have resulted in increased funding and capacity for schools to connect students and families with benefits. Whether you are new to advocacy or a seasoned advocate, this session will offer important insights and opportunities for your voice to drive change.

Day 2 Breakfast Plenary - Increasing Student Food Access: Hillsborough School District Partnership

Hillsborough School District set out to increase access to food both in and out of school for their students and families. This panel highlighted the partnerships and strategies that provided more food resources at their schools, boosted SNAP enrollment, and allowed thousands more students to receive free school meals.

Leveraging Schools to Support Benefits Access for Immigrant Communities

For decades, the Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) network has been a national leader in both refugee resettlement and legal immigration. Their “Border is Everywhere” program supports access to wraparound services that promote the healthy integration and wellbeing of our newest neighbors as they start their lives in the United States. During this session, participants heard from five expert speakers who shared valuable strategies on engaging with immigrant families to enhance access to and participation in federal nutrition benefits within schools. Whether you are an educator, community organizer, and/or advocate, this session provided you with replicable, scalable and sustainable approaches to boost access and participation in federal nutrition benefits programs for immigrant communities.

Supporting Students Year-Round: New Options for Summer Benefits

Summer – when students lose access to school meals - has historically been the hungriest time of year, setting students up for physical and mental health challenges. The traditional summer meals programs have long struggled to fill this gap, but now there are two new options for ensuring students have the nutrition they need to thrive over the summer and return to school ready to learn. This session discussed non-congregate meals in rural areas and Summer EBT, particularly their connection to other public benefits and the role of schools and other partners.

Facilitated Session: Where Do We Go from Here? Growing Connections between Education & Public Benefits

This interactive workshop provided a space for all attendees to “digest” the conference and think big. We facilitated a simulating space where participants can share in large and small groups, bounce ideas off each other, ask questions, and envision the future of public benefits access efforts through schools.