March 7, 2012—Former Secretaries of Agriculture John Block and Dan Glickman and Former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Charles Conner participated in a roundtable discussion on the challenges and opportunities presented by agriculture and nutrition programs as the School Nutrition Association’s 40th annual Legislative Action Conference (LAC) drew to a memorable close in Washington, D.C.
During the discussion, Block noted that as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) celebrates its 150th year, school nutrition operators, legislators and USDA officials must work together to ensure that children receive high-quality school meals. “We need to accept the changes and new technology that have come about over the years and work together to be sure we can make the same progress we’ve made in the last 30-40 years,” he stressed.
“Food and agriculture are among the few issues that have brought Democrats and Republicans together,” Glickman, a former member of the Wichita, Kan., school board, pointed out. He encouraged attendees to get to know their members of Congress. “Invite them to a school meal. Seeing your meals served first-hand gives them a frame of reference regarding your work,” Glickman said.
A common theme expressed by the three panelists was the valuable role that school nutrition professionals play in children’s health. “What you do to make sure that kids have good meals at school is really important…I view school nutrition professionals as healthcare professionals because you’re helping kids live longer,” said Glickman. Conner agreed, adding, “Don’t underestimate your involvement. You have a tremendously powerful voice on behalf of the kids, and don’t forget that.”
Block, Glickman and Conner also identified some potential allies that school nutrition professionals can turn to as advocates for school meals programs as the federal deficit continues to grow higher. They cited the influence that farm groups, members of the medical community and legislators and representatives have on issues pertaining to children’s health, including school nutrition programs.
As the roundtable session concluded, the panelists shared their memories and experiences of school meals. Conner spoke fondly of the yeast rolls he enjoyed in his school cafeteria. “School food is so much better now than it was when I was in school,” Glickman expressed, encouraging attendees to continue to make their voices heard regarding economic fairness for school nutrition. “If you keep these battles up, you will continue to have success,” he asserted.
More than 900 attendees from all corners of the country gathered in Washington, D.C., from March 4-7, 2012, to advocate for school nutrition priorities, setting an LAC attendance record.
2012 LAC Attendees Charged for Change
School Nutrition Professionals Call on Congress & USDA to Provide Guidance on Growing Unpaid School Meal Burden
© 2000 - 2013 School Nutrition Association, All Rights Reserved