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by intern Julia Landau

Yesterday afternoon, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted a conference call for ordinary citizens where he explained the Administration’s priorities for the Child Nutrition Act. There were 1,000 people on the call, which is incredible – and which demonstrates the momentum behind making real improvements to child nutrition programs.

What was the number one thing Vilsack recommended we do to improve the food in our country’s schools? SPEAK UP. While Vilsack noted the immense interest in this issue and clear public support for getting healthier food into schools, he also stressed that this issue isn’t appearing in the national media and the only way to get the message through to Congress is grassroots advocacy. What does this mean? Our Secretary of Agriculture is calling on us to contact our Senators and Representatives as they move on this bill – and to get media coverage as we do it. You can find a great jumping-off point right here at Slow Food USA’s Time for Lunch Campaign.

Vilsack also stressed community involvement in small-scale agriculture through the USDA’s program Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Check it out for resources and grants to support local food in your community.

The people on the call today were 1,000 small farmers, food service providers, PTA members, teachers, doctors, and dieticians. In answering their questions, Vilsack outlined some key focus areas for the Administration: increasing the nutritional value of school food; strengthening farm-to-school programs; providing training and equipment in school kitchens; providing healthy food during non-school days; expanding enrollment in reduced and free lunch programs; and supporting the new 60 minutes of play a day initiative. In general, he voiced his support for the First Lady’s new childhood obesity effort, Let’s Move.

So you heard it, folks. We know how important Child Nutrition Reauthorization is – now, it’s time to make Congress and the media understand as well.


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