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Tuesday Morning - December 18, 2012

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December 18, 2012

Note, this is the last Tuesday Morning of 2012. We will be back on January 8, 2013. We hope everyone has a great holiday season.

Table of Contents

USDA Has Released the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study IV

Letter From USDA to Senator Pat Roberts on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

USDA Eliminates Weekly Grain and Protein Maximums for 2012-13 School Year with an Update on the Regulatory Process and Insight from OFW Law

New Menus for the New Meal Pattern from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Senator Lugar Delivers a Farewell Speech

USDA Releases a Memo Extending Deadlines on School Food Authority Paid Lunch Price

SNA Public Policy and Legislation Committee Drafts 2013 Issue Paper

Share Our Strength Releases Poll About Childhood Hunger

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USDA Has Released the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study IV

USDA Food and Nutrition Service released the latest School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study. The report provides a comparison of the nutritional quality of school meals between SY 2009−2010, SY 2004−2005, and SY 1998−1999. As in prior studies, the nutrient content of the average meals offered and served in the Nation’s schools was compared with regulatory standards in effect at the time—the School Meal Initiative (SMI) nutrition standards—as well as selected recommendations included in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

A selection of key highlights include:

  • 85% of schools offered lunches that met standards for key nutrients (protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron).
  • 82% of elementary schools, 95% of middle schools, and 90% of high schools had a la carte offerings available at lunch.
  • For both lunches offered and served, a larger share of HUSSC elementary schools met the SMI standards for calories, vitamin C, and iron, on average, than elementary schools nationwide.
  • Vending machines were widely available in high schools (85 %), somewhat less common in middle schools (67 %), and rare in elementary schools (13 %).
  • More than 80% of school districts had a ban or restriction related to sweetened beverages and more than 75% had a ban or restriction related to snack foods.

Click here for the full report as well as the report summary.

Letter From USDA to Senator Pat Roberts on the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) states that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has agreed with his request to grant schools flexibility in implementing the new guidelines for the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs, but significant concerns remain on waste and costs of the new policies. In October, Roberts sent a letter to USDA requesting justification of the new policies and further analysis of their effects on active students, on school participation in the program and on the industry and economy as a whole. The full response from USDA to the Senator’s letter, including information on the new flexibility USDA is providing schools, can be found here. Senator Roberts is ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry which has jurisdiction on nutrition programs. For the press release from Senator Roberts click here.

USDA Eliminates Weekly Grain and Protein Maximums for 2012-13 School Year

During USDA’s annual State Agency 2012 Training Workshop, hosted by SNA, USDA officials announced the release of new guidance which eliminates the weekly maximums for grains and proteins under the new meal pattern for the remainder of the 2012-13 school year. Calorie maximums for school meals will remain in place. SNA President Sandra Ford, SNS, who presented at the meeting, commented, “School nutrition professionals have faced significant menu planning, operating, financial challenges and more as a result of the new meal pattern requirements. USDA’s new guidance acknowledges those challenges and gives school meal programs more flexibility. By easing weekly maximums for grains and proteins but maintaining calorie limits, USDA protects the nutritional integrity of the new standards while giving school meal programs more time to design healthy menus that meet both the new standards and students’ tastes.”

Click here for the SNA Web story.
Click here for the USDA Guidance.

Further worth noting is that Reuters, National Journal, and Education Week have all asked for comments from SNA regarding the USDA flexibilities. SNA President, Sandra Ford’s comments were featured in this Reuters story.

An Update on the Regulatory Process and Insight from OFW Law
USDA has stated that the guidance will cover through the end of the school year and questions remain about the next school year. USDA is aware that SNA would like these new guidance’s permanent, and that SNA may seek support from Congress.

USDA has suggested that in order to do more they would have to change the meal pattern rule itself. To do so, FNS itself will have to develop the broad outlines of what they would like to do, and then, in cooperation with the Secretary's office, the will have to go to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within the Office of Management and Budget, where it is reviewed for cost considerations and for consistency with other policy issues being advanced by any Administration. USDA could then publish either a proposed rule or an interim final rule in the Federal Register. Proposed rules do not include effective dates since they are viewed as still under consideration. Interim final rules can be implemented immediately or with a specific implementation date, while additional public comment is sought before the rule is made final.

Sometimes a law may be needed to change a rule, or to block a rule ,or to block funding for the implementation of a rule, if the agency isn't cooperative or responsive. It does not matter if legislative action starts in the House or Senate. While there is no formal comment period, everyone can send letters to their elected officials, and SNA officials can go meet with key supporters, committee leadership, and staff, to encourage the action we believe is in the best interest of providing nutritious meals to children. But there is no absolute guarantee that they will do precisely what we want, and they may do things that we do not want. Once the Committee approves the bill, the full chamber has to approve it by a majority vote, and sends it to the other chamber for consideration. In most cases that other chamber will refer the passed bill to its own committee of jurisdiction for further consideration. Sometimes they will not send the bill to committee, but take up action in the full body. Another majority vote is needed. If the same bill is passed, it goes to the President for signature. If the two bills differ, then they go to a conference committee for resolution. After the conference committee there will be another vote in each chamber, with a majority required for passage. And, of course, the President can ultimately sign or veto the bill.

Either process takes time. We have made it clear to USDA officials that school food authorities and vendors need to know the requirements for SY 2013-2014 as soon as possible and are actively working towards that end.

New Menus for the New Meal Pattern from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has developed sample menus to help you plug into the new USDA meal pattern. Each grade-level specific menu builds out a month long meal plan that offers your students healthy options and helps your school meet new meal regulations. These menus incorporate the maximum grain and meat limits to help you continue to phase in those requirements in 2013 and beyond. Download the menus here (free registration is required).

Senator Lugar Delivers a Farewell Speech

On December 12, 2012, Senator Lugar delivered a farewell speech stating that he would be leaving the Senate in a few weeks. Senator Lugar has been a longtime supporter of Child Nutrition Programs and has won the Gene White award. In his remarks he stated, “The potential global crisis over food production is less well understood. Whereas research is opening many new frontiers in the energy sphere, the productivity of global agriculture will not keep up with projected food demand unless many countries change their policies. This starts with a much wider embrace of agriculture technology, including genetically modified techniques. The risks of climate change intensify this imperative.”

Here is a link to his remarks in full.

USDA Releases a Memo Extending Deadlines on School Food Authority Paid Lunch Price

Due to the workload surrounding the new meal pattern implementation certification activity, FNS has granted a two-month extension to the deadline for the FNS-828 data submissions for this year only. For SY 2012-13, the FNS-828 reports will be due by January 30, 2013.

Link to USDA memo.

SNA Public Policy and Legislation Committee Drafts Issue Paper

On December 13, 2012 SNA’s Committee on Public Policy and Legislation convened at National Harbor to draft the 2013 Legislative Issue Paper. The Issue Paper is now being reviewed by the Board and pending approval, will be released soon. Stay tuned for the release of this important document that drives SNA’s legislative agenda for the coming year and the 113th Congress.

Share Our Strength Releases Poll About Childhood Hunger

Share Our Strength recently released a new poll showing that Americans across the political spectrum are deeply concerned about childhood hunger. The poll, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates (a Republican firm) and Freedman Consulting, LLC (a Democratic firm) surveyed 1,000 people who voted in the 2012 election. According to the survey, while they are worried about childhood hunger, Americans also believe it is a solvable problem. Accordingly, the public wants federal, state and local leaders to protect the nutrition programs that ensure our nation’s children get the healthy food they need. Key findings are below. The full poll findings can be found online.


 
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