An initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Expert Perspective

Values-Aligned Universal Meals

School Meals
Twin sisters share lunch in the school cafeteria
Twin sisters share lunch in the school cafeteria


October 23rd, 2023


National Farm to School Network has a vision for a strong and just food system for all and is working toward this vision through farm to school—the ways kids eat, grow, and learn about food in schools and early care and education settings.

Farm to school is a win for kids when they eat nourishing food in meals and snacks, participate in hands-on activities, and learn about the importance of where our food comes from.

It’s a win for farmers when school market opportunities provide reliable and consistent sales and fair pay.

And it’s a win for communities when food is grown, distributed, prepared, and consumed for the benefit of every community member.

A policy of universal school and early care and education meals for all kids, embedded with the core values of farm to school, has the potential to radically transform our food system for the better. That’s why National Farm to School Network is advocating for Values-Aligned Universal Meals focused on equity for people who are most impacted across the food system.

Schools engage in “values-aligned” purchasing when they prioritize considerations beyond mere cost-effectiveness while making procurement decisions. The network’s efforts are guided by six key values that collectively work to establish a just, equitable food system that promotes the health of all school children and benefits producers, workers, educators, and their communities:

  1. Economic justice
  2. Environmental justice
  3. Health impact
  4. Prioritizing racial equity
  5. Respecting workers and educators
  6. Animal welfare

Find out how you can get involved:

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