FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
School Nutrition Association Welcomes Commitment to Support School Meal Programs
National Harbor, MD (July 10, 2014) – School Nutrition Association (SNA) today participated in a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) roundtable discussion on the need to find practical solutions to support school meal programs as they struggle to meet new federal nutrition standards. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and other child nutrition stakeholders pledged support of SNA goals to provide healthy, balanced meals and snacks to students and recognized practical implementation challenges that need to be addressed.
“Our members across the country are proud of the role we play in providing healthy meal choices to more than 30 million students a day,” said Wendy Weyer, Director of Nutrition Services for the Seattle Public Schools, a Registered Dietitian and the School Nutrition Association’s representative at the roundtable meeting with USDA. “While we continue to support the goals of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, our schools need help. Today’s discussion was a step in the right direction, recognizing there is more work to be done to make implementation of national nutrition standards successful. Our members have already worked to implement dozens of new regulations, but many are struggling and will be unable to meet new standards this fall while remaining financially solvent. We welcome continued conversation, recognition of the challenges and support for flexibility as we all work to avoid further loss of student participation and revenue.”
The roundtable discussion was attended by representatives from 16 organizations, Let’s Move! Executive Director Sam Kass and USDA officials. On June 19, the SNA board requested an in-person meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Vilsack.
Today’s meeting comes just days before the start of School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Conference (ANC), the nation’s largest school nutrition event. ANC, July 13-16, will host 6,500 school foodservices professionals, including numerous partner organizations and child nutrition advocates who have worked with SNA and at ANC for years. USDA officials will also participate throughout ANC, hosting education sessions on the latest regulations, offering resources from the Exhibit Hall’s “USDA Lane,” and hosting a culinary demonstration using USDA Foods ingredients.
“We remain hopeful that today’s meeting will redirect the conversation to finding solutions to the challenges that school meal programs across the country are facing,” said Patti Montague, CAE, SNA’s Chief Executive Officer. “We all want kids to have healthy meals and SNA remains supportive of strong national nutrition standards. SNA will continue to offer feedback from our members, working on the frontlines in school cafeterias, to support commonsense solutions that advance the goals of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”
Under nutrition standards introduced in 2012, cafeterias have been offering more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and limiting the calories and unhealthy fats in school meals. Effective July 1, 2014, school cafeterias must also meet new limits on sodium, ensure all grains are whole grain rich, double the amount of fruits or vegetables offered at breakfast and ensure students take half a cup of produce with every meal – even if they plan to discard it.
Under the new standards, more than 1.2 million fewer students are participating in the school lunch program – this despite an increase in student enrollment. SNA has requested flexibility under the new standards to help students adjust to all these changes, increase the number of children participating in the school lunch program and keep school meal programs financially stable.
About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 55,000 school nutrition professionals across the country. Founded in 1946, SNA and its members are dedicated to making healthy school meals and nutrition education available to all students. For more information about ANC, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/anc.