Tuesday Morning - March 22, 2022

1 big thing: URGENT—comment on nutrition standards for next school year

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What’s new: SNA has submitted comments in response to USDA’s Child Nutrition Programs: Transitional Standards for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium for SY2022-23 and SY2023-24. We urge all members to take action TODAY to ask USDA to ease rules for schools battling supply chain disruptions.

Why it matters: When USDA issued this rule, they planned to extend meal pattern waivers for schools unable to meet these rules due to supply chain disruptions. However, last week Congress failed to give USDA authority to extend pandemic child nutrition waivers, and it remains unclear what meal pattern flexibility USDA will be able to offer after June 30.

TAKE ACTION! Submit your comments in response to the transitional rule through SNA’s Action Network!

  • Comments are due by 11:59 pm on March 24.

  • Consider using the pre-provided, editable text to share your support for SNA’s comments, and add details about the challenges your school meal program or company faces in meeting these standards, as well as concerns about USDA’s plan to propose additional long-term nutrition standards this fall.

  • When you submit your comments to USDA, a second message will be sent to your legislators to emphasize the critical need for their support.

Go deeper: SNA’s comments highlight ongoing supply chain, labor and cost challenges that impact efforts to meet sodium and whole grain rules. SFAs should not face fiscal action for their inability to meet meal pattern requirements due to supply chain disruptions. The letter stresses “the need for realistic and achievable standards moving forward.”


2. White House conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger and Health

What’s new: On March 14, SNA joined 127 organizations in sending a letter to the White House, urging President Biden to publicly commit to convening a White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger and Health.

Why it matters: The letter specified, “A new White House Conference would bring together a broad range of stakeholders to create a real, concrete plan to eliminate hunger and food insecurity, address hunger’s root causes and ensure nutritious food is accessible to all.”

Go deeper: The spending package, signed into law by President Biden last week, directs the Health and Human Services Department to convene the Conference “for the purpose of developing a roadmap to end hunger and improve nutrition by 2030.”

3. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack addresses nutrition security

USDA Nutrition Security

What’s new: On Thursday, March 17, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced a new report, Actions on Nutrition Security, showcasing USDA's commitment to advancing nutrition security, and the consistent access to safe, nutritious food that supports optimal health and well-being for all Americans.  

Go deeper: Secretary Vilsack outlined a four-pillar strategic approach to address nutrition security:  

  •  Meaningful Support: Providing nutrition support throughout all stages of life.

  • Healthy Food: Connecting all Americans to safe, affordable food sources. Taking a closer look at how schools can source fresh and fruits and vegetables locally to improve health and create a circular economy.

  • Collaborative Action: Simplify and develop information that is translatable.

  • Equitable Systems: Prioritize equity by promoting nutrition security in rural areas, including Tribal communities. Make SNAP and WIC more readily available.

Why it matters: The report highlights USDA’s effort to update school meal standards to reflect the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Secretary Vilsack indicated that USDA is looking for ways to help schools, in the absence of waiver extensions; however, it won’t be “quite the same as the higher flexibility and higher reimbursement rates.”

4. New school nutrition bills introduced

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What’s new: Two new bills impacting school meal programs have been introduced in the House of Representatives:

  • Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) introduced H.R. 7027, the “School Hunger Elimination Act of 2022,” to directly certify all school-age children receiving Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for the National School Lunch Program.

  • Rep. Joseph Morelle (D-NY) introduced H.R. 7038 to fund the information clearinghouse through FY2029.

 Go deeper: SNA recently responded to a Federal Register comment request on the National Clearinghouse. SNA’s comments highlighted the importance of having a clearinghouse of resources addressing hunger and nutrition across the nation. When well publicized, and when households are made aware of the tool, it provides valuable information for members of a community to be informed of services and resources.

5. State legislative update

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🔎Let’s look at the latest state updates…

Minnesota State Legislator Roger Chamberlain introduced a bill that would require schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program to provide free lunches to all enrolled students. Schools with an Identified Student​ Percentage at or above the federal percentage determined for all meals to be reimbursed at​ the free rate must participate in the Community Eligibility Provision.​ The state would also have to fund the difference between the federal reimbursement and the average cost of a school meal. This measure was referred to the Education, Finance and Policy Committee. A companion bill was introduced as well.

New York Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas introduced legislation to require schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to students. This bill has been referred to the Committee on Education.

Hawaii Senate Majority Leader Dru Kanuha introduced a concurrent resolution urging the Department of Education and State Public Charter School Commission to prioritize the hiring of dedicated staff to manage federal school meal programs. This measure has been referred to the Committee on Education. Senate Majority Leader Dru Kanuha also introduced a resolution with the same intent. 

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