Tuesday Morning - February 1, 2022

1 big thing: Sign on to support waiver extensions

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What’s new: SNA has signed on to a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and Agriculture, urging them to extend USDA’s nationwide waiver authority through School Year 2022-23 due to pandemic disruptions affecting schools and child nutrition programs.

Why it matters:  Twenty-one national, state and local organizations signed on in support of this effort to help school meal programs adapt and overcome challenges.

Big picture: Food item shortages/discontinued menu items, supply chain disruptions and labor challenges are some of the issues school meal programs are currently facing. 

What’s next: Please consider including your organization to show your support. 

2. SNA comments on USDA information collection activities

Farmer holding radishes on farm

1) SNA has submitted comments on the USDA FNS 2023 Farm to School Census information collection posted to the Federal Register on December 2.

Why it matters:  In the letter, SNA recognizes the importance and function of the Farm to School program and USDA research.

  • FNS, having streamlined and enhanced the survey to conform to completion on a mobile device, should support increased response rates. 

  • SNA urged USDA to minimize disruptions to the district personnel and look for ways to further streamline the data collection process 

2) SNA also responded to the USDA National Hunger Clearinghouse Database Comment Request published in the Federal Register on November 23.

Why it matters: SNA acknowledged that this data collection is important as it serves as a clearinghouse of resources addressing hunger and nutrition across the nation including child nutrition programs and their service to children and families throughout the current public health emergency.

  • Having a clearinghouse within our communities will serve as a guide to direct people in need while providing a critical community support mechanism. 

3. USDA announces Director of Nutrition Security & Health Equity

You're hired card in envelope

What’s new: The USDA has named Sara Bleich, PhD, Director of Nutrition Security and Health Equity for the Food and Nutrition Service.

In a press release announcing the appointment of Dr. Bleich and three others to key staff roles at USDA in Washington, D.C., they note:

  • “Since joining the Biden-Harris Administration in January 2021, Bleich has served as Senior Advisor for COVID-19 in the Office of the Secretary. Previously, she served as a Professor of Public Health Policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research centers on food insecurity, as well as racial injustice within the social safety net.”

Read more.

4. FDA & Stop Foodborne Illness host webinar on food safety

Food Safety written on chalkboard

What’s new: The FDA and Stop Foodborne Illness announced that the second webinar in their collaborative series that explores food safety culture will take place on February 16 at 12:30 p.m. EST.

Why it matters: “The series will engage experts from the public and private sectors related to the importance of a robust food safety culture in helping to ensure safe food production.”

What’s next: Click here to register.   

5. State legislative updates

Map of US

Recently introduced state legislation include provisions creating school meal programs or requiring states to reimburse the cost of school meals not covered by federal funding.

Oklahoma State Legislature introduced a bill designating the Board of Agriculture as the State Educational Agency. This bill assigns it oversight responsibility of the National School Lunch Act, as well as the implementer and administrator of all federal child nutrition programs administered by the State Board of Education.

  • The bill also states that the Board of Agriculture shall apportion appropriations funds “to school districts to ensure the provision of meals for children, in compliance with the National School Lunch Act, the Child Nutrition Act of 1966, and Public Law 91-248.” 

Tennessee General Assembly introduced a bill requiring school boards to establish a free school lunch and breakfast program in their jurisdiction.  

  • Meals would be provided free of cost to students enrolled in a school under the board’s jurisdiction.

  • The state is required to reimburse each local education agency the cost of providing free breakfast and lunch after all federal funding has been applied.

  • This measure was introduced by State Senator Heidi Campbell. A companion bill has been introduced as well. 

The Colorado Senate introduced “Healthy Meals for All Public School Students,” a bill reimbursing schools for meals provided to students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price meals under federal meals programs.  

  • This bill would be effective for budget year 2023-24, subject to Colorado being selected to participate in the federal demonstration project to use Medicaid eligibility to identify students who are eligible for the federal school meals programs.

  • This measure is sponsored by Senator Rhonda Fields, and Representatives Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Dafna Michaelson Jenet. 

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The School Nutrition Association has a presence in every state across the country. View links to many of the state associations to find out more about what SNA is doing nationwide. 

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