Advocates Come Together to Help Shape the Policy and Campaign to Bring Free Meals to All Kids in Child Care

Published on Jan 18, 2022 in Child Nutrition, State Legislation, Young Children

On January 13th, interested stakeholders came together for a strategic meeting to plan for the 2022 Food with Care campaign. During the meeting, Nourish California and the CACFP Roundtable shared what was accomplished through the Food with Care campaign last year and the work ahead.

Melissa Cannon, Senior Advocate at Nourish California, thanked advocates who helped bring the State Meal Reimbursement to child care. She shared that over the last decade Nourish California and the CACFP Roundtable campaigned alongside other advocates to restore the state funding for child care meals. Thanks to that collective advocacy, this past year the Legislature appropriated an additional $11 million in ongoing funding to help child care providers serve meals to low-income children. While Melissa celebrated the success of the campaign, she humbly recognized the continued work ahead.

Melissa noted that, even with historic child care investments in last year's budget, California still has not allocated sufficient nor equitable funding and resources for early care and education. Melissa shared details of how the underinvestment in child care is the result of a racist legacy of child care laws that undervalue and underpay labor historically performed by Black, Latina, and immigrant women. She commented on how access to food in child care still bears the marks of a history of racism and social injustice, including existing state policies that create a pay penalty that limits child care providers to only 75% of the state reimbursement for meals served. She shared that to move from understanding history to changing it new policies are needed that are based on equity and inclusion.

Melissa shared details of a policy proposal to bring free child care meals to all kids in California and fair pay to child care providers for serving those meals. She called for a three-pronged approach that: 1.) Enables ALL child care providers in California to qualify for reimbursements equivalent to the highest federal rate for meals served in the federal child care meal program; 2.) Lifts the child care meal pay penalty; and  3.) Makes strategic investments in free child care meal service start-up and expansion grants. She noted that those closest to the problem must be part of the solution and asked for input during breakout sessions on both the policies being proposed and the campaign strategy.

Attendees were engaged in a timely policy development conversation discussing the legislative and budget goal for 2022. While the aim of the campaign is to make state legislative changes, advocates also discussed the need for federal policy changes. Many shared their input from direct work with the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which helped identify policies that the CACFP Roundtable plans to now raise with administrators of the food program. Attendees expressed support of the policy proposal and also identified messaging and resource needs for the campaign.

Following the breakout sessions, Melissa Cannon shared Nourish California and the CACFP Roundtable's intent to share updates and opportunities for action through email updates. Attendees were encouraged to subscribe for updates. Based on the input gathered and the support demonstrated during the Town Hall, Nourish California and the CACFP Roundtable plan to move forward with the policy proposal. Conversations with potential policy champions for the proposal are ongoing.

The following resources were shared with registrants following the event: slides and event recording. Unfortunately, we had challenges with Spanish interpretation during the event, but Spanish transcription of the event will be posted here as soon as it isavailable. We appologize for any inconvenience.