SNA’s 46th Annual Legislative Action Conference Highlights


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Nearly 900 school nutrition professionals, industry partners and other supporters of K-12 school meal programs are making their way back home after several busy days in our nation’s capital, participating in SNA’s 46th annual Legislative Action Conference (LAC).

LAC2018-charging-the-hillTop on the agenda was prepping for the annual “Charge the Hill,” a day of visits to members of Congress to advocate for the priorities of SNA’s 2018 Position Paper by sharing their individual stories from the front lines in America’s school cafeterias. General sessions and breakouts alike offered opportunities for attendees to dig into facts and figures, perspectives and perceptions, strategies and tactics.

But even before they headed to Capitol Hill, attendees got an unexpected boost of support when Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky spoke at the Closing General Session and used the opportunity to announce a greater flexibility for small, rural school districts challenged to meet the current education and training requirements for school meal program directors. The rule would provide relief for districts with fewer than 2,500 students. Censky also announced the roll-out of a suite of customizable resources from USDA that are designed to help districts improve access to and accuracy of meal applications.

Censky’s remarks capped off an impressive line-up of speakers offering encouragement, respect and gratitude.

The Opening General Session featured fascinating insights into today’s political landscape from Peter Hart and Frank Luntz, pollsters from both sides of the aisle who make regular appearances across the full spectrum of television news programs. With a mix of wry humor and mutual respect, they shared their expert reflections to help arm attendees for making the most of their time with lawmakers. LAC2018 Luntz Presentation

Hart set the stage, using polling data to describe the American mood toward Washington: angry with the system, anxious about the future and divided in our concern about our country being on the wrong track.

“For 13 generations of U.S. history, we’ve have always passed the baton forward. Today, for the first time, we fear that we will pass the baton backward—that our children will not be better off than we are today.”

Luntz began his remarks by expressing his deep respect for school nutrition professionals. “As a kid, I was taken care of by the women who served me lunch.”

He offered attendees affirmation of the power they wield when lobbying: “Challenge members of Congress to make children a priority. Don’t let them tell you there are a lot of ‘hard decisions’ to make—hard decisions are what you sent them to Congress to do. Our system of government has become so pretentious. You are the antidote.” Luntz also reminded participants that their work is not done when they leave Washington. “You have to see members of Congress when they’re back home. At home, you are a constituent. I want them to know you by your first name.”

Other highlights from this year’s LAC included:

  • Dr. Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, FAND; Associate Professor of Emeritus of Pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine shared the evidence that demonstrates the impacts on healthy diets in children and its positive impact in learning and reduction in children behavioral problems.

    During Dr. Ayoob’s featured session he stated, “Children’s diets today lack exactly what breakfast offers: whole-grains, fruit and low-fat dairy. It’s the more nutrient-rich meal. The power of school breakfast is undisputed.”

  • Sharon Parrott from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Rebecca Vallas from the Center for American Progress both provided eloquent and compelling arguments about the dangers associated with block grants, helping attendees to address SNA’s number-one legislative priority: The ensure that school meal block grant legislation is never even introduced.

    “They will try to sell block grants as providing flexibility—but the only flexibility school nutrition directors will get is the flexibility in making decisions for how you will cut your programs,” said Parrott. “Don’t be fooled by the pitch for a pilot—argue the merits of the proposal.”

    “If the parties don’t listen to what their constituents want, they will be signing their own political pink slips,” noted Vallas of the important role that SNA members play in advocacy.

  • A panel from USDA explored a wide array of news and announcements, ranging from new products added to the Foods Available List; the impending end of the Healthier US School Challenge, the role USDA can and will play in providing natural disaster relief, the Food Buying Guide mobile app and more.

  • No one could ever claim that LAC is all work and no play! Official LAC events included the 5th annual Celebration of School Nutrition Heroes. This year’s Celebration featured a special guest master of ceremonies, Jason Smith, winner of several Food Network competitions, as well as a pre-event reception and post-event after party! Once again, this occasion was marked by the shedding of happy tears of inspiration.

Didn’t make it to LAC 2018? Photo highlights and happenings of the conference will soon be included in the May 2018 issue of School Nutrition and SNA’s Flickr pages.

We encourage you to stay up-to-date with the latest legislative news by signing up for Legislative Action Alerts and SNA’s Tuesday Morning newsletter.

Mark your calendars now and plan to attend LAC 2019 in Washington, D.C. February 24-26, 2019. We hope to see you there next year!


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