Tuesday Morning - February 22, 2022

1 big thing: Speak up for school nutrition program waivers

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SNA is urging all members to contact their legislators to urge support for H.R. 6613, Keeping School Meals Flexible Act.

Why it matters: This bipartisan legislation, introduced by U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Jon Katko (R-NY), would allow the USDA to extend critical pandemic-related child nutrition waivers through School Year (SY) 2022-23. 

The bottom line: Without USDA authority to extend the waivers, they will expire in June 2022.

Our thought bubble: Persistent national supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have severely impacted the financial and operational sustainability of school meal programs. SNA's 2022 Position Paper urges Congress to extend pandemic-related child nutrition waivers through SY2022-23 to support our programs and the students we serve.

What's next: Take action! Visit SNA's Action Network to send a letter to your representative in support of H.R. 6613 and waiver extensions.

2. State legislative update

Map of US

What’s new: Legislation amending current state statute to expand eligibility for free meals for students, as well as the creation of universal school meal programs continues to be introduced.  

New Jersey state Senator Shirley Turner has introduced legislation amending the current statute to require all school districts to provide free meals to all students enrolled in school, regardless of federal eligibility requirements. The bill also states that the State will be responsible for the cost of school lunches for students deemed ineligible.

In California, a bill making changes to student category classification for purposes of local control funding formula was introduced. The category of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals would be replaced with low-income students and students experiencing homelessness, as defined by this measure, in the categories of students who are unduplicated students.

  • Students who are English learners or are low-income students, or both of these categories, will only be counted once.

  • Students who are homeless, in foster care or both, or who are also English learners or low-income students will be counted twice.

  • The imposition of additional duties on county superintendents of schools, school districts, and charter schools related to unduplicated students would impose a state-mandated local program.

  • This bill was introduced by Assembly Members Phil Ting and Kevin McCarty and may be heard in Committee on March 13, 2022.

Go deeper: Review the latest legislative trends in your area in SNA’s 2021 4th Quarter State Legislative Report.

  • You can also check for your state’s convene and adjourn dates here.

3. Report released on pandemic school meal participation

Students in Cafeteria

What’s new: The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) released the report, The Reach of Breakfast and Lunch: A Look at Pandemic and Pre-pandemic Participation.

Why it matters: This report reviews breakfast and lunch participation rates for children before and after the pandemic.

By the numbers: The report found that the reach of breakfast and lunch during the 2020–2021 school year decreased when compared to the first year of the pandemic (2019–2020 school year) and before the pandemic (2018–2019 school year). 

What’s next: Speak up now in support of school nutrition program waiver extensions so schools can continue to feed hungry students.

4. Team Nutrition launches Meal Talk Webinar Series

Meal Talk Webinars Logo

What’s new: USDA’s Team Nutrition has introduced a new webinar series, Meal Talk Webinars.

Why it matters: These webinars provide interactive trainings on hot topics related to school meals. FNS Regional Offices, State agencies, School Food Authorities (SFAs), and others who may be interested are invited to participate.

What’s next: The first Meal Talk webinar, held on March 9 at 3 PM EST, will focus on school breakfast. Register.

Learn more.

5. USDA Food and Nutrition Service recruiting candidates

A "Now Hiring" hanging sign.

What’s new: USDA FNS is recruiting for two critical senior leadership positions.

Why it matters: The Associate Administrators are responsible for leading large and diverse organizations, providing support and advice to policymakers, and helping set strategic direction for the agency and programs. 

1) Deputy Administrator for Child Nutrition Programs is responsible for the federal administration of the federal Child Nutrition programs, including developing and implementing legislative, regulatory, and budget priorities for these programs; representing USDA with Congressional, federal, State, local, and private sector stakeholders; and providing oversight and support to State and local program operators.

2) Deputy Administrator for Policy Support provides leadership to multiple critical functions supporting all FNS programs, including research and analysis; regulatory planning, development and clearance; communications and media;  and external and governmental affairs. 

What they're saying: “We are seeking candidates from all sources, and hope to attract a very broad, talented and diverse a pool of candidates.”

What’s next: Applications are due March 10, 2022.

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