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Hundreds Call on Congress to Adequately Fund School Nutrition Programs

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Erik Peterson
703-739-3900, ext. 124
epeterson@schoolnutrition.org

Hundreds Call on Congress to Adequately Fund School Nutrition Programs

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (February 23, 2009) -- From March 1st to 4th more than 600 school nutrition professionals will gather in Washington, DC to give Members of Congress a message: school nutrition programs need to be adequately funded in order to continue to provide balanced, nutritious meals to students. The 37th annual School Nutrition Association Legislative Action Conference, coinciding with the beginning of the child nutrition reauthorization process, will focus on the crisis in funding for school meal programs as well as the need for national nutrition standards: urging Congress to require science-based, yet practical, uniform national school nutrition standards to govern the sale of all foods and beverages available during the school day.

It has been five years since Congress last reauthorized the child nutrition programs. Since 2003-2004, school nutrition programs serve more whole grain items, fruits and vegetables and low fat dairy, however the cost to offer nutritious choices and greater variety now exceeds the per meal reimbursement available to school nutrition programs. While required to be financially self-supporting, increased labor, food and indirect costs make it virtually impossible for most school nutrition programs to stay "in the black." Research shows that spending money on healthy school meals for children saves healthcare costs during adult years.

“Every school day school nutrition professionals must meet differing local, state and federal nutrition standards; provide quality, safe and healthful meals that kids enjoy; accommodate special dietary needs and food allergies of a diverse student body; all for less than $2.57 per meal,” said Dr. Katie WIlson, SNS, president of SNA. "The time has come to raise the meal reimbursement rate to an amount that reflects the true food, transportation, labor and benefits, training, equipment and indirect expenses necessary to provide a school meal."
The key legislative issues the School Nutrition Association (SNA) is advocating for as part of child nutrition reauthorization are to:

  • Increase the per meal reimbursement by 35 cents for all meals in order to keep pace with rising costs and implementing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Update the Federal reimbursement rates semi-annually to better reflect increasing costs.
  • Expand the “free” meal category from 130% of poverty to 185%, consistent with the WIC income eligibility guidelines (eliminating the reduced price meal category).
  • Provide 10 cents in USDA commodities for each school breakfast served.
  • Grant the Secretary of Agriculture the statutory authority to regulate the sale of all foods and beverages on the school campus, consistent with the most recent edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (ending the “time and place rule”).
  • Require the Department to implement a consistent, science-based national interpretation of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for all school meals reimbursed by USDA.

Activities of the 37th annual Legislative Action Conference at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Washington, DC will also include:

  • Remarks from Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee member Senator Bob Casey  (D-Penn.) and Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chair of the Congressional Hunger Caucus.  
  • Noted political commentator Ronald Brownstein will give the opening keynote address.
  • Presentations will be made by Dr. Virginia Stallings of the Institute on Medicine, Dr. Brian Wansink of Cornell University and Keith Ayoob of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. 
  • Panel discussions will include SNA’s 2008 legislative priorities, perspectives on the need for national nutrition standards, the school nutrition funding crisis and an update on child nutrition activities from the USDA.
  • SNA members will take their message to Capitol Hill, sharing the nutritional value of school meals and the need for key policy changes with members of Congress on March 3, 2009.
  • On Wednesday morning, March 4, 2009, SNA Dr. Katie Wilson, SNS will testify at a hearing held by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.
  • The Global Child Nutrition Foundation will honor Marshall Matz with the 2009 Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award at the “A Possible Dream Gala” on Tuesday evening, March 3rd, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.  Rhonda Devaux, SNS, 2008 Outstanding School Nutrition Director of the Year and Camellia Patey, 2008 Individual Industry Member of the Year will be honored for their achievements.  Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Global Child Nutrition Foundation’s initiatives to promote sustainable school feeding programs worldwide.

The School Nutrition Association is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. The Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals. SNA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children’s health and well being through school meals and sound nutrition education.

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Related Links

Legislative Action Conference 2009

2009 Legislative Issue Paper

From the Kitchen to the Congress: A Child Nutrition Reauthorization Blog

Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2009

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