FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner
SNA to Congress and Administration: Act Now to Protect School Meal Programs
National Harbor, MD (May 29, 2014) – Today, the School Nutrition Association, on behalf of 55,000 school cafeteria professionals and the families they serve, urged Congress and the Administration to take immediate steps to provide school nutrition professionals the flexibility they need to plan healthy, appealing meals while maintaining fiscally solvent programs.
SNA applauded the House Appropriations Committee for preserving language in the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriation Bill to give school meal programs, operating at a net loss for at least 6 months, the opportunity to apply for a temporary, one-year waiver as they work to meet costly meal pattern requirements. “We appreciate the House Appropriations Committee’s support for this waiver to give temporary needed relief to some schools across the country,” said SNA President Leah Schmidt. “This will not halt the progress in school cafeterias; it is a temporary reprieve to allow schools to catch up.”
However, SNA also called on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take immediate steps to provide school meal programs with necessary regulatory relief, or for Congress to address the need for additional flexibility through the amendment process to the bill. SNA continues to request that USDA or Congress act to:
- Retain the current requirement that 50% of grains offered with school meals be whole grain rich rather than further increasing the requirement to 100%.
- Retain Target 1 sodium levels, and suspend implementation of further sodium levels unless and until scientific research supports such reductions for children.
- Retain requirements to offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but eliminate the mandate that students must take a fruit or vegetable with meals.
- Require USDA to allow any food item permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as a competitive food.
- Click here for details on these requests
“USDA has a responsibility to protect the school meal programs they oversee,” said SNA President Leah Schmidt, SNS, who has met with USDA to discuss these concerns. “Although many of the new meal requirements have been a step in the right direction, some of USDA’s regulations are so overly prescriptive that they are driving students away from healthy school meals while threatening to bankrupt many school meal programs. SNA members urge the Administration to take immediate steps to provide school nutrition professionals more flexibility in menu planning. If USDA refuses to act, we hope Congress will stand up to protect America’s school meal programs from unintended negative consequences that could derail future successes in cafeterias nationwide.”
SNA also expressed dismay over the negative tone in the school meal debate. “We are all working toward the same goal – encouraging children to make healthier choices,” said Schmidt. “Those accusing school nutrition professionals of wanting to serve junk food to students should visit our cafeterias to see the nutritious meals we offer and the creative ways we are encouraging kids to make better choices.”
“The professionals working in school cafeterias are the front line experts, charged with the responsibility of feeding 30 million students each day – all with different tastes, appetites, and preferences. We’re just looking for some flexibility from those in Washington to ensure our kids are getting the nourishment they need to be successful.”
Yesterday, school nutrition professionals from across the country discussed the challenges they face under the new standards. Click here for quotes and the audio file.
Click here for SNA’s fact sheet.