On December 3, USDA released a memo clarifying the flexibility available to local educational agency (LEA) officials for establishing the effective date of eligibility for children certified for free or reduced price meals. It allows LEAs to establish the date of submission of a school meal application as the effective date of eligibility, rather than the date a school official approves the application. The goal is to allow students from food-insecure households access to free or reduced-price school meals during the eligibility determination period. For more information, please read the memo by clicking here.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that USDA will award $11 million in kitchen equipment grants to fourteen states, the District of Columbia and Guam. The USDA announcement states that the grants are intended to “help schools purchase needed equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.”
The fourteen states were selected to receive grants based on free- and reduced-price participation in NSLP and greatest unmet need. They are Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. States will competitively award the funds to school districts to purchase needed equipment, with priority given to districts serving a high percentage of low-income children.
USDA’s announcement cites a new report demonstrating the need for additional kitchen equipment to help schools meet new nutrition standards. The report, ““Serving Healthy School Meals: U.S. Schools Need Updated Kitchen Equipment,” was also released today by the Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
December 6, 2013 – US Representative Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) has introduced the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act to ease meal pattern requirements. H.R. 3663 would eliminate calorie caps and permanently lift weekly maximums on protein and grains. (Per a previous web story, USDA recently submitted for review language that would eliminate the grain/protein maximums.)
The bill was introduced the same day SNA’s Public Policy and Legislation Committee was meeting to draft the Association’s 2014 Legislative Issue Paper, with extensive input from SNA members. The Issue Paper, which will be unveiled in January, is a key step in SNA’s three year legislative plan, which focuses on the successful reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Programs.
Over the last month, in preparation for reauthorization, SNA hosted a Congressional staff briefing on Capitol Hill regarding school meals and participated in 24 one-on-one meetings with key Hill staff and Members of Congress. During these meetings, SNA confirmed that committee leaders prefer to address school nutrition issues comprehensively as part of the reauthorization process, rather than advancing individual bills that address specific priorities.
To ensure SNA’s advocacy plan achieves the greatest possible success, the Association is focusing its engagement on advancing reauthorization and educating Members of Congress on the issues that matter most to SNA members. Members have a critical role to play in this process by participating in SNA’s Legislative Action Conference (LAC), March 2 to 5, 2014. Visit www.schoolnutrition.org/LAC to find out more.
USDA FNS has included making the flexibility for grain and protein requirements in the school meals program permanent in a rule review request sent on November 7 to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The final rule has not yet been published in the federal register. While the reviews typically take no more than 90 days, USDA does not have a target on when they expect to have it finalized by OMB. SNA is staying abreast of the status of this rule and will update members as developments arise.
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