New USDA Policies: Grain-only Entrees, Smart Snacks and More


April 28, 2014 - There has been a flurry of school nutrition policy guidance coming from USDA over the last several days. A summary of what you need to know and links to more information are provided below in the Policy Update.

National School Lunch Program Summer Seamless Option Q&A

Do you have questions about how recent policy changes in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) affect the implementation of the Seamless Summer Option (SSO)? This memo is for you. USDA has requested that State agencies distribute the memo to program operators immediately.

Flexibility for Area Eligibility Using Census Data

SFSP, and the NSLP Summer Seamless Option have additional flexibility when using census data for eligibility determinations. This policy is now in effect and USDA has requested that State agencies distribute the memo to program operators immediately.

Grain-Only Entrées for School Breakfast

Grain-only food item’s inability to qualify as a lunch entrée under the Smart Snacks rule has been a heated point of contention for some. USDA has clarified that a food item must contain either a meat or meat alternate to qualify as an entrée. However, they do recognize that this may severely limit the availability of breakfast foods offered. As a result, school food authorities (SFA) will be permitted to set standards for which items qualify as an entrée when served as part of the School Breakfast Program. Details on this exception can be found here.

Proposed Rule Details Fines for School Food Program Mismanagement

Section 303 of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) directs USDA to establish criteria by which a school may be fined for failure to “correct severe mismanagement” of their school food program. The fine will be calculated based on the federal reimbursement earned from the school food program in which the mismanagement occurred but must be paid from funds derived from non-Federal sources. The proposed rule was received by the White House Office of Management and Budget Monday, April 21st and will be released to the public in ninety days following. The abstract of the proposed rule can be found here.

Smart Snacks Nutrition Standards and Exempt Fundraisers

State agencies have the responsibility of establishing limitations on the frequency of fundraisers exempt from the Smart Snacks rule. Guidance on this requirement can be found in this USDA memorandum. The Smart Snacks rule is effective July 1, 2014 and State agencies have been advised to remind their respective schools that the rule will be in effect this coming school year.

$25 Million in Grants Provided for School Food Equipment

School Food Authorities (SFA) participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible to apply for funding for new school food equipment. Schools nationwide will receive $25 million in grants to buy food service equipment to serve healthier meals. The grants will go to state agencies that will award money to districts with priority given to schools where at least half the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The USDA memo with more details can be found here. Schools that are interested in applying for these grants should contact their state agency for further information. For a list of state agency contacts, click here.

In-school Culinary Education Programs and Smart Snacks Rules

This memo provides confirmation that Smart Snacks rules have no impact on culinary education program curriculums nor the food sold from them to adults or students after the school day. Any food that is sold to students during the school day will have to comply with Smart Snacks rules.

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