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Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
SNA Praises USDA for New Waiver Addressing Supply Chain Challenges
ARLINGTON, VA – The national School Nutrition Association (SNA) thanked the U.S. Department of Agricultures (USDA) for its quick response to SNA member concerns regarding continued supply chain disruptions for school meal programs nationwide. USDA has issued a new waiver to prevent school meal programs, struggling to procure foods and supplies, from being financially penalized if shortages prevent them from meeting certain federal regulatory requirements for school meals.
“This waiver is a huge relief for school nutrition professionals who are working so hard to serve our students healthy meals in the face of unprecedented challenges,” said Beth Wallace, MBA, SNS, School Nutrition Association President. “We have spent the last several months scrambling to secure foods and supplies for our students’ meals and re-working our menus when our orders have been canceled or deliveries delayed. SNA greatly appreciates USDA’s action to ensure schools can focus on serving students nutritious meals without worrying about losing federal reimbursements if they fail to complete production records or meet one of a multitude of meal pattern requirements.”
In June, SNA alerted USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to challenges in the school nutrition industry. SNA’s Back to School 2021 Survey of school meal program directors nationwide found 97% are concerned about continued pandemic supply chain disruptions, with 65% citing “serious” concern. SNA member-reported problems include canceled orders, food and supply shortages, product substitutions, price increases, delayed and canceled deliveries, often with little or no advance notice.
USDA quickly responded, meeting with SNA’s Board, Executive Committee and industry partners and requesting feedback on how the Department could support meal programs. SNA issued a follow-up letter to Secretary Vilsack with recommendations, including increased regulatory flexibility, to help ease challenges for school nutrition programs.
“SNA looks forward to continuing our work with USDA and Congress to maintain critical supports for school meal programs and the students we serve,” said Wallace. “Schools, manufacturers, distributors and USDA are all working together to address these supply chain issues, and we ask parents and students to be patient and understanding of any last-minute school menu changes or substitutions in the meantime.”
Thanks to additional USDA waivers, schools can offer free meals to all students without an application this school year.
About School Nutrition Association:
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, non-profit professional organization representing 50,000 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 on school meals, visit www.SchoolNutrition.org/SchoolMeals.