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Tuesday Morning - March 3, 2009

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March 3, 2009

LAC 2009 Late Edition

Table of Contents

LAC 2009 Update

Obama Releases FY2010 Budget Request, Includes Child Nutrition Increase

Merrigan to Be Nominated as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture

USDA to Release Guidance on Equipment Funding Grants Soon

Schools and Parents Struggle with Unpaid Lunch Bills

For Those Keeping Score – Over 30 Issues and Growing

 

In Every Issue

Legislative Action Center

Legislative Toolkit

PR Toolkit

State Policy Index

State and Federal Legislation

PPL Committee

LAC 2009 Update

The 2009 Legislative Action Conference is currently underway in Washington, DC. Below are some highlights from the conference:

  • At Sunday’s keynote luncheon, attendees listened to noted political commentator Ronald Brownstein discuss the changing political landscape and some of the challenges facing the Obama administration.
  • Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern (D) discussed the details of a bill he will introduce later this month.  The expansive legislation would guarantee free breakfast and lunch at school to every child as well as expand programs such as summer meals.
  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack addressed over 715 conference attendees Monday morning, inspiring them to continue advocating strongly for healthy school meals.  Calling childhood hunger a “moral outrage,” he asked the audience to continue working towards President Barack Obama’s goal of eliminating childhood hunger by 2015.  Secretary Vilsack vowed to improve the nutritional value of school meals and to increase funding for school meals, a step already started with the President’s budget request.
  • During the annual LAC banquet on Monday evening, Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) addressed attendees, saying that expanded access to the child nutrition programs is more important than ever.  He renewed his promise to help increase funding for the school nutrition programs. 
  • Two speakers provided encouragement and suggestions for improving the nutritional quality of school nutrition programs, as well as increase participation. Dr. Keith-Thomas Ayoob, a nationally recognized authority on nutrition issues, offered some thoughts on local school wellness policies, calling them a “festival” of individualization.  He stressed the need for one national policy and provided suggestions on discussing nutrition with parents and legislators.  Dr. Brian Wansink, the director of the Cornell University Food Brand Lab, discussed research findings and offered new techniques for making the school lunch line “cool” again.

For additional highlights from the conference, please visit From the Kitchen to the Congress.

Obama Releases FY2010 Budget Request, Includes Child Nutrition Increase

On Thursday, February 26, 2009, the Obama Administration proposed a $3.55 trillion budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010.  The proposed budget requests $1 billion per year in new spending for 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, consistent with the President’s commitment to ending childhood hunger by 2015.  According the White House, this annual increase is for program reforms aimed at “improving access, enhancing the nutritional quality of school meals, expanding nutrition research and evaluation, and improving program oversight.” This represents a new investment and new funding on top of approximately $15 billion a year currently spent on federal child nutrition programs. Reportedly Obama's proposal would add $9.85 billion to the programs through fiscal 2019.

A line-by-line budget request for the child nutrition programs is expected within the coming months.  That budget will detail the President’s request for the operating budgets of the child nutrition programs for FY 2010 including specifics on what the new funding would be spent on.

Merrigan to Be Nominated as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture

On February 23, 2009, President Obama announced the intention to nominate Kathleen Merrigan as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. The Deputy Secretary position reports directly to the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack.

Merrigan is currently an Assistant Professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Masters and Doctorate Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston, Mass. Prior to joining the Friedman School, Merrigan held a variety of policymaking jobs at the state, federal, and international level. From 1999 to 2001, she was Administrator of Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From 1994 to 1999, she worked at the Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, and served as an expert consultant at the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. From 1987 to 1992 she was a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, working for Chairman Patrick Leahy where she helped write federal organic food-labeling rules.

Merrigan to Be Nominated as Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture

USDA to Release Guidance on Equipment Funding Grants Soon

Guidance on school food service equipment grant funding will be released within a few weeks, according to a memo issued by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, $100 million was included for school food service equipment grants.  These grants will be competitive and preference will be given to school districts with 50 percent or greater free and reduced price participation.  Individual state agencies will award the grants.

USDA Policy Memo on Equipment Funding Grants 

Schools and Parents Struggle with Unpaid Lunch Bills

A recent Associated Press article from New Mexico details the struggles that parents and schools are having with unpaid school lunch bills as a result of the economic downturn. SNA estimates that about half of all school district nutrition programs have seen an increase in the number of parents who do not qualify for free price meals but who can no longer afford the price of a reduced price or paid meal. Districts handle this situation differently, some allowing meals to be charged, others providing an alternate meal. The School Nutrition Association  has long held the position that nutritious, balanced school meals should be available to all children at no cost.

While SNA advocacy efforts continue at the federal level calling for policies to increase access to school meals for all children in need, such as eliminating the reduced price co-pay, the Association has compiled resources and sample policies to help school districts address this situation in a manner that protects children and results in balanced meals for all. Please visit the links below for more information regarding charge policy resources.

Legislative Issue Paper

Charge Policy Resources

No Money for School Lunch – New York Times

No More Free Lunch – Associated Press

For Those Keeping Score – Over 30 Issues and Growing

We are almost a third of the way into 2009, and more and more priorities and 'wish lists' are appearing for child nutrition reauthorization. We thought we would try to list them all here - or at least a good number of them. Space won’t allow us to go into much detail but this will give you a sense of the scope and variety of topics being discussed. These are the issues and policy agendas of a wide variety of groups that would like to see changes made to the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program this year through the reauthorization process.

We will start with SNA: the legislative issue paper has already been discussed on the blog (funding and nutrition standards stand out as the two big issues), but the issue paper addendum with a variety of other issues is still in development.  The addendum, which will be vetted by SNA’s Public Policy and Legislation Committee and approved by the SNA Board of Directors, will categorize and prioritize issues in addition to those outlined in the 2009 Legislative Issue Paper.

For more Reauthorization priorities, please visit the From the Kitchen to the Congress Reauthorization Blog.

SNA Legislative Action Center

Legislative Toolkit

PR Toolkit

State Policy Index

State and Federal Legislation

State legislation can now be accessed on the Internet through Netscan. Use Username: schoolnutrition and Password: sna

ClickState Legislation Instructions for steps to access state legislation through the service. Legislatures currently in session include:  Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Federal, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.


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