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
Click here to read letters written to Congress by students at Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco
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 ($40,793 for a family of 4 with 2 adults and 2 children) as in other parts of the country, but in SF, $40,793 isn't enough to feed and house a family of 4 without government assistance, whereas in many parts of the country, $40,793 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 2009-10 brings government reimbursement of $4.35 in Alaska, but only $2.68 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 $40,800 a year (too much to qualify for subsidized school meals in 2009-10) 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 $61,632 in order to have the same buying power as the family of 4 in Fairbanks earning $40,800. The SF family would have to earn $66,112 in order to have the same buying power as a 4-person family earning $40,800 in Reno, Nevada, or $71,281 to have the same buying power as a family earning $40,800 in Detroit, Michigan.
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 is $2.68 in 2009-10, 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.
That’s it - you’re done!
Excerpts from letters to Congress written by students at Abraham Lincoln HS in San Francisco
"As a constituent I am writing this letter requesting that you please vote to increase per student federal funding for school lunches from $2.59 to $4 or $5. I would like you to consider with the cost of labor we are left with approximately $1.30 to cover the cost of the food, condiments, utensils, etc. The current nutritional standard (The Child Nutrition Act which is up for reauthorization soon) needs to be rewritten and updated to cope with our increasing cost of living. Remember we live in San Francisco where we have a higher cost of living, as many see this gap/difference in our minimum wage; especially when compared to surrounding cities, even right at the borders of San Francisco…. With all this in mind I would like to ask for more fresh food, healthier choices, and larger portions. With my fellow classmates we have researched and discussed this issue many times. We hope to see you jump onboard with our issue, as that will make us very happy as future voters. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to read this, really appreciated!"
"You need to help us increase federal funding for our school lunches from $2.59 to $5.00, because $2.59 does not provide enough energy for students to learn. The food may have reached the required nutrition facts, but does not provide enough for a full stomach. Students are constantly complaining about still being hungry after eating lunch. This will disrupt the learning environment, because students cannot concentrate with an empty stomach….As your constituent, I am hoping to be seeing some change in the school lunches."
"As a student of the San Francisco Unified School District's Abraham Lincoln High School and as a newly registered voter in the Sunset District of San Francisco, I am urging you to vote on increasing the federal funding of school lunches from $2.59 to $4. Our current students do not get the fresh, locally grown appetizing foods that other private institutions receive. As you know, the cost of living in San Francisco is one of the highest in the United States and simply put $2.59 is not enough…. As a public urban high school, it is understood that not all families are able to provide their child with a healthy and fresh lunch to school. Not only that but some students rely on school lunches as their only source of food for their entire day. Lastly, it has been statically shown that having a better lunch will show better performance in school….. I hope that you will take our issue strongly and help us. This issue is especially hard to the elementary and middle school students who are bound to stick with the school lunch for several years and have no voice in our government. I am speaking in behalf of all the students from all schools that do not receive the adequate lunches that they should get."
"The reason I am writing this letter to you is because of The Child Nutrition Act, I would love to help improve public school lunches for every student. I'm currently working with fellow classmates and my teacher on this issue in my American Democracy class. I understand that the current amount granted for every lunch is $2.59, but I feel that it is too little to provide a greener, fresher, healthier, better tasting lunch for students from low income families. As a student, I feel the need to help fight for healthier school lunches for my school mates as well as other students from different schools. It is my last year in high school and I only have so little time to do my part with me moving on to college. I feel the urge to try my best to inform people about the problem that their children face. I do not wish to waste your valuable time, but I do ask for your support and assistance in providing healthier lunch. Please vote to increase the federal funding per student for school lunches from $2.59 to $5, every student deserves a lunch that is satisfying and fulfilling."
"I am requesting that the federal funding for school lunches should be increased from $2.59 to $4-5. By doing so, there would be more funding for healthier, larger portions, and fresher food served in school cafeterias in San Francisco. This would increase students' attention and focus to be educated more and to succeed in school."
"I am writing today to encourage you to help join our cause at Lincoln High School to improve our school lunches. Currently there is an active act called The Child Nutrition Act that can deeply affect the quality of food being served in our cafeteria. Currently, the 'per student' federal funding for school lunches is only $2.59 cents, and that alone gives us meals that are not satisfying. As a constituent, I would like for you to help represent our school by bringing attention to this cause. The money spent on school lunches per student as of now is nowhere close to having the fresh and healthy meals we deserve… If the student federal funding for school lunches were to increase to four to five dollars per student, that would be enough to provide us with healthier choices and larger portions."