Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids TN Advocate Toolkit 2024

1 in 8 Tennessee kids are hungry. School meals are a first-line response to this crisis. Let's work together to ensure more Tennessee kids have access to nutritious, no cost meals.

Table of Contents

This resource was created to help you advocate for no cost school meals for all Tennessee kids. Use these tools when communicating with your legislators, your community, and other advocates.

1 in 8 kids in Tennessee are hungry. School meals are a first-line response to this crisis.
Let's end the lunchbox tax. Investing in free school meals is an investment in our future workforce.

Why School Meals? Why Now?

In March 2020, the USDA issued COVID-19 related waivers to allow schools to provide meals at no charge to all students, no matter their household income. Because of these waivers, Tennessee avoided a serious spike in childhood hunger. But these waivers expired in June 2022, and many schools had to go back to paid, reduced-price, and free meals. School lunch debt rose.

Healthy meals are important to all students. Like books and buses, school meals should be available to students at no cost to their families. School meals support kids and when we support kids, everyone wins.

Advocate Talking Points

It's important that all advocates are sharing consistent messaging with their communities, other advocates, and legislators. Use these talking points when speaking to anyone about how state policy can positively impact kids in your community. Your expertise matters! Consider your own personal experience with school meals or how school meals support your organization's mission.

One Pagers

These one pagers can be used in meetings with legislators, with partners, or with community members. Feel free to print and share!

Template Letter/Email to Your Legislators

This is just an example of written ways we can communicate with our legislators about school meals. Legislators want to hear from you especially if you're one of their constituents. Be sure to personalize your note. To find your legislator's contact information, use the Find My Legislator tool.

Template Phone Script to Your Legislators

Calling your legislators' offices can be a quick and impactful way to communicate your support. You will often be speaking to their staff, so be sure to tell them your name, share that you are a constituent, and be clear and brief about your support for school meals.

This template phone script will be frequently updated to reflect what's happening to the school meals bill.

Template Press Release for Organizations

Legislators need to hear that this is an issue that's important to organizations serving the communities they represent. Customize this press release with information most relevant to your organization and community. Contact us if your press release is picked up by local media! We would love to share and amplify your message,

Template Letter to the Editor for Individuals

Are you an individual who cares about this issue? Write a letter to the editor of your local paper to bring attention to this policy priority. Customize this template letter and get tips for how to get your letter picked up by the press.

Sample Social Media Graphics

Make sure legislators know folks across Tennessee support school meals at no cost for all kids. Share your support on social media and tag your legislator when possible!

Sample Social Media Posts

Did you know that 1 in 8 TN kids are hungry? When basic needs aren't met, kids can't learn. School meals for all kids are the solution. #Schoolmeals4all

School meals are a critical response to hunger. Data shows that children who eat breakfast and lunch at school rely on school meals for half of their data intake. #SB208 and #HB255 would make school meals for all a reality in TN. #Schoolmeals4all

The higher cost of school meals and rising inflation makes paying for breakfast and lunch increasingly difficult for many hardworking Tennessee families struggling to make ends meet. #SB208 and #HB255 supports kids and families.

Let's end the lunch box tax. Investing in free school meals is an investment in our future workforce. [Tag your legislator] please support #SB208 and #HB255! #Schoolmeals4all

[Tag your legislator] have you heard about #SB208 and #HB255? This important legislation will expand access to school meals for all students. Please support this legislation!

Boilerplate Language

1 in 8 Tennessee kids are hungry. School meals are a first-line response to this crisis. Let's work together to ensure more Tennessee kids have access to nutritious, no cost meals.

[Your Organization] is a member of Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids TN, a group of organizations and citizens passionate about expanding access to healthy schools meals for all kids. Interested in joining? Register here to receive regular updates!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids TN?

Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids TN is a statewide partnership working to bring policy solutions that expand access to school meals in Tennessee. The Tennessee Justice Center, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, the YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South, and the Urban Child Institute lead this campaign. We have over 160 passionate advocates and 55 organizations working with us. Join us!

How do I stay up to date with other advocates?

Any organization is welcome to join our partner working group. We meet on the first Thursday of every month at 1 pm CT / 2 pm ET. Sign up to stay updated about upcoming meetings, advocacy updates, and action items.

What does the bill say?

You can read current bill language and any amendments here.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Contact Kate Goodin if you have any questions about Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids TN and our work. Kate's email is and her phone number is (615) 949-2811.

Who are my legislators?

Every Tennessean has representation in both the House and Senate. To find out who represents you in the Tennessee General Assembly, use the “Find My Legislator” tool.