PARENTS ADVOCATING SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY
No time to write your own letter to Congress?
Just copy and send one of these letters, or use them for inspiration for your own
Click here for a sample letter for those who live in San Francisco
Click here for a sample letter for those who live outside San Francisco
Click here for sample letters for students
Click here for help with writing your own letter
Sample Letter for those who live in San Francisco
Re: Child Nutrition Act
Our students need better school meals to help them achieve academically. But the way the school meal programs are funded, it is impossible for our school district to pay the higher cost for more fresh produce, more organic food, and less fatty cuts of meat and cheese without having to dip into the schools' budget for academic expenses. Schools shouldn't have to choose between meeting students' academic needs and providing for their nutritional needs!
San Francisco has the highest cost of living of just about anyplace in the US, but schools here receive the same reimbursement for free and reduced price meals as schools receive in other parts of the country where living costs are much lower. At the same time, the cutoff for eligibility for subsidized meals is the same here ($39,200 for a family of 4 with 2 adults and 2 children) as in other parts of the country, but in SF, $39,200 isn't enough to feed and house a family of 4 without government assistance, whereas in many parts of the country, $39,200 does cover basic living expenses.
When the Child Nutrition Act is reauthorized, Congress needs to make provision for higher cost of living areas like San Francisco. The federal government already takes this higher cost of living into account when it pays its own employees; those stationed in SF receive higher pay for the same job classification as those working in lower cost of living areas. If the government recognizes that it costs more for its own employees to live in SF, shouldn't it acknowledge that it also costs more for everyone to live in SF?
The government provides more money for school meal programs in Alaska and Hawaii, even though the overall cost of living in both those states is lower than in San Francisco. A free lunch served to a needy child in 2008-09 brought government reimbursement of $4.20 in Alaska, but only $2.59 here in SF. Higher cost of living areas like SF need a reimbursement at least as high as what is currently provided to schools in Alaska.
At the same time, a family of 4 earning $39,200 a year (too much to qualify for subsidized school meals in 2008-09) can't get by in SF the way they could in, say, Fairbanks, Alaska. According to the New York Times Cost of Living Wizard tool, the family of 4 in SF would have to earn $57,293 in order to have the same buying power as the family of 4 in Fairbanks earning $39,200. The SF family would have to earn $63,736 in order to have the same buying power as a 4-person family earning $39,200 in Reno, Nevada, or $63,453 to have the same buying power as a family earning $39,200 in Portland, Maine.
Higher cost of living areas need two things from the Child Nutrition Act - a higher eligibility ceiling for free and reduced price meals, and a higher reimbursement rate for those meals. Congress already provides higher rates for Alaska and Hawaii; it is time to include San Francisco too. When the government started the National School Lunch Program after World War II, it recognized that it was in the country's best interest to make sure that its children were properly nourished. It is time to include all children in that vision. Please fund the school meal programs at the level necessary for schools to be able to feed our children properly. Well nourished healthy children are the best investment Congress can make in our future.
Sample letter for those who live outside San Francisco
Re: Child Nutrition Act
America's students need better school meals to help them achieve academically. But the way the school meal programs are funded, it is impossible for our school districts to pay the higher cost for more fresh produce, more organic food, and less fatty cuts of meat and cheese without having to dip into the schools' budget for academic expenses. Schools shouldn't have to choose between meeting students' academic needs and providing for their nutritional needs!
Too many school cafeterias are serving low quality fast food type lunches because highly processed options like chicken nuggets, pizza, and nachos are all they can afford. Most school meal programs spend as much on labor as they do on food, with even more money going for overhead. In fact, although the government reimbursement for a free lunch served to a needy child was $2.59 in 2008-09, in most communities, only about $1 of that money is available to be spent on food, with the rest going for labor and overhead (like pest control, delivery, garbage, and utilities.) One dollar is not enough to pay for a decent lunch for a school age child, especially one who may not receive much dinner at home.
Our students need more fresh, appetizing vegetables and fruit, more salad bars, more food cooked fresh each day right there in the cafeteria, not brought in frozen, wrapped in plastic and reheated. But fresh food costs far more than frozen, reheated, highly processed food, and certainly more than $1 per meal. With the cost of both food and fuel skyrocketing in the past 18 months, the usual 2-3% COLA which school meal programs receive will not be enough even to cover the increased costs, let alone improve the quality of the food. More money - much more - must be allocated by Congress to provide the high quality food our children deserve.
When the government started the National School Lunch Program after World War II, it recognized that it was in the country's best interest to make sure that its children were properly nourished. It is time to include all children in that vision. Please fund the school meal programs at the level necessary for schools to be able to feed our children properly. Well nourished healthy children are the best investment Congress can make in our future.
Sample letters for students
These are real letters written by real students; they are meant to inspire you to write your own original letter.
Re: Child Nutrition Act
Most students enjoy eating good food. Often school cafeteria food is sub-par, but the only way to reasonably change this is to get more money for school meal programs, so that better food can be purchased and served. More money would be available if the government gave a higher reimbursement rate per meal. Once the food begins to get better, more students will eat in the lunch program. The spiral will then make the food program better and better, until the food is both nutritious and delicious. This improvement can only begin by Congress allocating more money to school meal programs, so that the USDA can give a higher reimbursement rate to the schools for every free and reduced price meal they serve.
The reimbursement rates for the coming school year have just been posted, and they have increased only about 4% over last year's rates. Meanwhile, the costs for food and fuel (to deliver food to schools) have gone up by far more than 4%. How can schools provide better food when their costs increase faster than their funding? Please send a lot more money to schools in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act for 2009. As students, we need the best possible food to do our best in school.
Re: Child Nutrition Act
When I think about the food I ate in school while growing up, I feel angry and sad. Angry because my continuing battle with weight gain is partly due to the high-sugar and high-fat foods served at school, and sad and angry because I know that the current school food situation-while overall improved compared to the recent past-is not all that it could be to help slow down the rise of obesity and other unhappy ramifications of unhealthy food in our nation's children.
There is no question that academic success requires a healthy constitution, which requires proper nutrition. Unfortunately, the way school meal programs are currently funded makes it impossible for our school districts to pay the higher cost for more fresh produce and organic food, and less fatty cuts of meat and cheese without having to take away from the schools' budget for academic expenses. Having to choose between academic needs and nutrition needs is a decision no school should have to make.
Chicken nuggets, pizza, nachos-these are the low quality, highly-processed foods that I ate and children are still eating. Most school programs spend as much on labor as they do on food, even more for overhead. Although the government reimbursement for a free lunch served to a needy child was $2.49 in 2007-08, in most communities, only about $1 of that money could be spent on food because the rest had to go to labor and overhead (i.e. garbage, utilities). As you can see, one dollar is insufficient to provide a nutritious lunch for a school age child, especially one who may not receive much dinner (or nutritious dinner, for that matter) at home.
It is imperative that all students are given fresher, more appetizing vegetables and fruit, and foods that are cooked fresh rather than highly processed items. All this, however, costs more than $1 per meal. With the cost of food and fuel soaring in the past year, the usual 2-3% COLA which school meal programs receive will not be enough to even cover the increased costs, let alone improve the quality of the food. Congress needs to allocate much more money to provide the nutritious food that our children deserve.
On behalf of every child in this country-including the one that I used to be-please fund school meal programs at the level necessary for schools to be able to feed our children nutritious meals. After all, knowledge cannot be power if the student is fed high-fat and high-sugar calories that can result in obesity, diabetes, attention deficit disorders, and the resulting social ostracism and low self-confidence. Well-nourished children ready to succeed academically and socially are the best investment Congress can make in our future. This is in everyone's interest.
Federal Way, Washington
Re: Child Nutrition Act
My parents taught me to finish all the food on my plate even if I found it distasteful. In the last five years, this rule became easier to follow in San Francisco public schools thanks to the ban on junk food in 2003, among many other achievements since then, that encourage student's lunch money to flow into their lunch program, as well as encouraging participation in the lunch program, thereby increasing the quality of food through government reimbursements. But regrettably, the financial demands on families in high cost of living areas, like San Francisco, have made it difficult for all students to reap from these benefits because the income ceiling for eligibility for free lunches does not reflect the changing economy. As a result, the number of non-eligible but needy children is increasing. The income ceiling for eligibility must be increased so as to serve this growing population's needs.
I graduated from the SFUSD in 2007 and have benefited greatly from improvements to the lunch program, especially as a vegetarian. However, I still have two younger brothers, one in 2nd grade and one in the 11th grade, who are dependent on school lunches. Although my family's income has made both my brothers comfortably eligible for free lunch, their quality of food will suffer if the lunch program does not become more inclusive. More families are becoming ineligible for free lunches as more families are leaving the city because of the living costs, and the student lunch program, being dependent on student participation, will have even less money to provide nutritious food choices. This will turn students, like my brothers, away from the lunch program, and will make it even worse for students that have no other choice for food. It's unfair for schools to be left with only the option of using money from the General Fund, which pays for student's academic needs, to feed their students. In addition to increasing the income ceiling for eligibility, school meal funding must also increase. Students' health and nutrition are crucial for their education. It is absurd that their education will suffer because of inadequate funding to their lunch program.
Alfredo A. Sabillón
How to Write a Letter for Better School Food
Here are the things you should include; they do not necessarily need to be in this order.
- who you are (a public school student, parent/guardian/relation of public school students, teacher, food professional, concerned citizen, taxpayer)
- where you live (city/state or number of the Congressional district; for example, writing to Dianne Feinstein, you are a Californian; writing to Nancy Pelosi you reside in District 8)
- assuming you are a registered voter, say so! Our elected officials care about all of their constituents but they care more about those who vote.
- identify the issue you are writing about (school food is terrible - this is a good point at which to relate a personal experience with school food like “I eat the whole meal but I am still hungry” or “Today I had ____ for lunch and it tasted like ____”)
- what would you like the recipient of your letter to do to correct this? (examples - put more money for school meals into the Child Nutrition reauthorization; increase the reimbursement rate for free and reduced priced lunches to $5; give higher reimbursements to parts of the country with higher cost of living; raise the ceiling on eligibility to $50,000 a year for a family of 4 with 2 working adults; allocate separate additional money for building central kitchens so school districts can scratch cook; fund school meals more generously so that schools can use higher quality fresh food and local produce, not frozen and canned food)
- if you wish, you can list some of the improvements schools could make with more money for meals (more salad bars; more fresh fruits and vegetables; more locally grown produce; more organics; humanely raised, hormone-free animal products; the option of soy milk instead of cow’s milk) and more money for infrastructure (building central kitchen so that there could be a return to scratch cooking instead of shipping cooked food all around the country; refurbishing cafeterias to make them lovely peaceful places for students to savor their meal instead of bare bones utility space conducive to gulping food and bolting)
- be sure to focus on issues which could be fixed with more money; more money could pay for better food; it could pay for more cafeteria workers to make the lines move faster; but it wouldn’t necessarily help with a problem like a meal not being hot enough or a cafeteria worker who isn’t very nice
- thank the recipient of your letter for taking the time to read your remarks
That’s it - you’re done!
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Page last updated Monday November 02, 2009