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USFA Member Aaron Smith, School Nutrition Director in Seattle Public Schools wins K-12 segment Silver Plate Award from IFMA. Aaron also serves on the USFA Board of Directors. Congratulations Aaron!

Convictions and Courage in School Meals

Greetings from the beautiful Coulees of Wisconsin! Coulees are large valleys, surrounded by beautiful wooded bluffs along the Mississippi River. These valleys were formed when large glaciers cut through Wisconsin. It seems like the summer just started and yet we are looking at the 2022-2023 school year.

After finally seeing a Congressional Bill move through the partisan system of our government, the USDA has worked hard to find possible flexibilities and I feel ready to face the new challenges that lie ahead. I hope you do too, because I believe that 2022-2023 will require many of us to add a new cap to the many we wear each day on the job: the hat of courage.

And just what does that hat of courage look like? I have seen it over the past two years as districts have had to take it day by day to figure out what and how to feed children in their community and they never gave up. I also saw it in the face of school nutrition professionals that risked their own health to serve their communities in every type of weather and condition. These displays of courage represent a determination like no other.

We will need such courage to support school nutrition programs now and in the years ahead. School nutrition programs are at a tipping point where many things must change to ensure their future. Let’s not accept the status quo; instead, let’s band together and learn new processes, doing what is in the best interest of school nutrition and the children we serve. That means that we need to find the courage to tell community leaders and government officials that feeding all children must be a priority, one that supersedes local choice and one that must be funded appropriately, just like bus rides and school books. School meals have guaranteed benefits for their recipients. The program is a vital safety net that not only nourishes students but prepares them for a day of successful learning.

The history of school meals boasts many pioneers who had the courage to start programs, obtain funding and push legislation for better access with free and reduced-price structures. It is now our turn to push forward, sharing the struggles we face and getting proper funding for our programs. I dedicate this post to all those who have taught me about courage—and to all of you who will be courageous in the face of new challenges. Step forward, make yourself heard, be a part of rewriting the story of school meals to one in which they are incorporated into the school day.

Keep Calm and Feed Kids.

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