by Patti Armbrister, AERO Board Member
Four Montana representatives visited their Members of Congress in Washington, D.C. along with nearly 90 people from around the country who traveled to the nation’s capital to advocate for healthy school food on Tuesday, February 23rd.
The team of advocates from Montana met with Representative Zinke’s staff, Senator Daines’ staff, and Senator Tester and his staff on Capitol Hill.
Congress has been working on legislation to reauthorize the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs and several other child nutrition programs. In January, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved a bipartisan child nutrition reauthorization bill, officially called the “Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016.”
The team from Montana asked our Congressmen to support legislation to increase funding for school kitchen equipment improvements, as well as USDA Farm to School Grants for Farm to School programs, and to support science-based nutrition standards for healthy school food for kids.
All children deserve to grow up healthy, and school meal programs are successfully providing millions of students with nutritious meals and snacks each day. Research shows that the standards are working: students have many healthy options now, and they are choosing and eating more fruits, vegetables, and nutritious entrees. School cafeterias are classrooms where students develop skills and habits that help them lead healthier lives. We demand the best for our kids in every other classroom; the cafeteria should be no different.
The healthy school food advocates encouraged our Congressmen and Congresswomen to support School Kitchen Infrastructure Needs and Training for School Food Service Personnel by co-sponsoring the School Food Modernization Act (S.540/H.R. 3316). Most districts in our state and across the nation have significant needs for new kitchen equipment and more training opportunities to prepare their workforce to serve healthier meals and snacks. Since 2009, Congress has recognized the need for providing schools with additional resources for school kitchen equipment. USDA Equipment Grants are working at providing schools with equipment like combination ovens, refrigerators, freezers, and other equipment that allow schools to better serve nutritious meals.
About the Advocates
Patti Armbrister – Patti is the FFA Advisor / Ag Ed Teacher in Hinsdale, MT. She works closely with the food service staff and writes grants on their behalf. Patti’s dedicated to galvanizing positive change in Hinsdale. She has been influential in the school garden program, outdoor education, local food, serving garden produce in the school meals, and reducing food waste.
Ginny Kirby – Ginny is the Bigfork School District’s Food Service Director. She started in Bigfork three years ago and when she jumped into her role, she really embraced sourcing local foods from the Flathead Valley – everything from local beef to Flathead cherries.
Maria Pace – Maria is the Principal and Superintendent of Boulder Elementary School District. She is a true champion of local and healthy school food options. Boulder has been a FoodCorps service site for 4 years and Maria has been incredibly supportive and involved as a co-site supervisor.
Kirsten Gerbatsch – Kirsten was the FoodCorps Montana Fellow for 2 years, coordinating the statewide FoodCorps program, which is part of a national service organization focused on farm to school programs. Now as a FoodCorps alumna, she wanted to make sure Montana was part of the national conversation about healthy school food. Passionate about policy advocacy at all levels, Kirsten works for the Montana Democratic Party and M+R Strategic Solutions.