All the heat wasn’t in the kitchen on March 17, when a group of chefs, led by AWA supporter Chef Bill Telepan, wore their traditional white jackets to Capitol Hill to push for increased funding for school lunches. Chef’s Day of Action, coordinated by the NYC Alliance for CNR (Child Nutrition Reauthorization), brought together celebrity chefs and school lunch reform advocates to urge Congress to provide an additional $4 billion in funding per year for school food programs. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act comes up every five years and this year President Obama has asked for an additional $1 billion per year. The Senate, however, is considering only authorizing $500 million per year—half of what the President has requested. Even $1 billion wouldn’t make much of a difference to the 30 million school children who depend on the National School Lunch Program for meals. And when you consider the size of the budget—$3.7 trillion—it’s pocket change. $1 billion only equals 17 ½ cents per day per child. The government reimburses schools $2.68 for fully subsidized lunches. The chefs say much more is needed to really make a difference. An increase in funding to $4 billion will provide an additional $0.70 per child. “We need school lunches to be about the best food, not the cheapest food,” says Chef Bill Telepan, who is also a board member of NYC’s Wellness in the Schools. “This is what we practice as chefs and we have a responsibility to bring the best food there is into schools.”
On President’s Day, the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) concluded its cross country rally in Washington, D.C. and Animal Welfare Approved’s (AWA) legislative partner, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), attended in support. NBFA members have spent the past month mobilizing support for the distribution of payments owed to black farmers as a part of a 1999 discrimination settlement. The settlement awarded one billion dollars to black farmers; President Obama has allocated the funds in his FY 2010 budget. The last Farm Bill seconded this verdict by allocating funds and opening doors for the approximately 80,000 farmers locked out of the original suit to have their cases heard in court.
For more than a century, black farmers have experienced discrimination and racism by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) farm lending programs, which exhibited favoritism to larger corporate agriculture interests. President Obama vowed to continue the fight for justice in his State of the Union address last month and in previous statements. “My hope is that the farmers and their families who were denied access to USDA loans and programs will be made whole and will have the chance to rebuild their lives and their businesses,” he announced in a May 6, 2009 press release. In a 1999 statement regarding the case, then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman admitted the agency’s guilt in shutting black farmers out of farm loan and farm subsidy opportunities. NBFA President Dr. John Boyd reiterated his position on the case in a CNN news interview Sunday, February 14, 2009, “Black farmers helped to shape agriculture in the U.S. and deserve to take part in the American fabric and take part in federal programs.”
“We are pleased that President Obama has made a commitment to bringing justice to our nation’s black farmers. It is high time for Congress and the USDA to work toward equality by finally ending the illogical practice of awarding federal funds based on a farmer’s ethnicity,” said Christine Sequenzia , federal policy advisor for AWI. AWA and AWI strongly support equality for family farmers and urge Congress to uphold funds set aside by President Obama.