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School Meal Block Grants

February 1, 2018

School meal block grants are the biggest threat to school nutrition programs today. Loss of entitlement funding, six cent certification, paid meal reimbursements, and adjustments for inflation would be detrimental to the overall well-being and academic success of students. Under a block grant, schools are forced to let students go hungry or make up the difference at the expense of academics. Program expansion becomes a liability. Natural disasters and economic recessions leave vulnerable populations without. 

What does this mean for your school and your students?

Use SNA's Block Grant Calculator to see an estimate of funding cuts to your school nutrition program.

1.      Complete the green fields.

2.      Part one shows immediate loss of funds to your program. 

3.      Part two shows percent decrease in funds over three years.

4.      Part three shows the cumulative losses over three years.


What can you do?

Print your results and share them with interested stakeholders. These include:

  • Your state and federal legislators! Those attending SNA's 2018 Legislative Action Conference should bring their results with them to their appointments on the Hill.
  • Your school board and superintendents who, like you, are invested in the wellbeing and academic achievement of their students.
  • Attach SNA's block grant flyer for those who may need more information.
  • Keep SNA in the loop on your efforts to preserve school meal funding. Contact us at if you have any questions.


SNA Submits Comment on USDA School Meal Rule

On Friday, January 19, SNA submitted an official comment to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in response to the interim final rule on "Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains and Sodium," published in the Federal Register on November 30, 2017. In the comment, SNA expressed appreciation for the Department’s efforts to address the challenges school districts have confronted in transitioning to updated meal pattern requirements. SNA also reminded USDA that school districts are looking forward to a permanent solution eliminating the onerous management of temporary rules and, where allowed, annual waivers. You can read the complete comment here.

Label our MdSNA response to Interim Regs.

Reg Comments Doc


USDA Foods Available List for SY 2018-19 Published

On December 15, 2017, USDA FNS published the SY 2018-19 USDA Foods Available List for Schools and Institutions. USDA works to introduce new products and reformulate items every year based on feedback from states and school districts; this year, they included ten new products for ordering. Those new products include: frozen mixed berry cups; frozen mixed vegetables; chicken drumsticks; grilled chicken breast fillets; pre-sliced turkey ham and smoked turkey; egg patty rounds; and white whole wheat flour. More information about the new offerings can be found in the product preview sheets. New feedback or new product ideas can always be submitted to


New Year's Resolution: Recognize a Colleague!

Do you know a stellar kitchen manager, outstanding cook, or inspiring school nutrition director in your school district? Nominate them for a national  SNA Member Award and show them how much you appreciate their hard work!
Each year the national SNA awards are presented at the Annual National Conference (ANC), where thousands will learn of the achievements of the winners.
Nominees must hold an SNA Certificate or the SNS Credential. SNA is currently accepting nominations online for the: 

Nominations are due online or to the State President by March 1, 2018.

Word documents are available for each award to make it easy for you to gather your thoughts and prepare your nomination in advance.

For more information visit or contact


SNA Comments on USDA School Meal Rule


Contact: Diane Pratt-Heavner  


SNA Comments on USDA School Meal Rule  


NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released an interim final rule to extend current regulatory flexibility for school meal programs through School Year (SY) 2018-19. The non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA) commended USDA for the extension and has called for even greater flexibility under whole grain and sodium mandates to address challenges while maintaining strong standards to benefit students. SNA is assembling a member working group to develop detailed recommendations to improve a final rule.

The interim rule maintains Target 1 sodium limits for school meals, and USDA “anticipates” extending this deadline through SY 2020-21. States can continue to offer waivers to schools demonstrating hardship in procuring or preparing specific whole grain rich foods that are acceptable to students (eg whole grain tortillas or brown rice). Finally, the rule provides schools the option to offer flavored 1% milk. USDA requests public comment on the interim rule and the sodium reduction timeline to inform the development of a final rule, effective in SY 2019-20. 

A recent SNA survey of school meal programs across the country, detailed below, demonstrated the need for increased flexibility under the rules. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) and USDA have also cited significant challenges under updated standards with student acceptance, food waste, product availability and participation - more than one million fewer students choose school lunch each day under the updated nutrition standards. To address these challenges, SNA has advocated to restore the initial requirement that at least half of grains offered with school meals be whole grain rich and to maintain the Target 1 sodium levels permanently.

“School nutrition professionals have achieved tremendous progress, modifying recipes, hosting student taste tests and employing a wide range of other tactics to meet regulations while also encouraging students to enjoy healthier school meals,” said SNA President Lynn Harvey, Ed.D., RDN, LDN, FAND, SNS. "Despite these efforts, school nutrition professionals continue to report challenges with sodium and whole grain mandates, as well as limited access to whole grain waivers. SNA appreciates USDA’s desire to address challenges and will provide comment on how to improve a final rule to support the preparation of healthy school meals that appeal to students.” 

SNA’s 2017 School Nutrition Trends Report examined the positive efforts of schools to meet nutrition mandates while demonstrating the need for increased flexibility under the nutrition standards:


School nutrition professionals are working to increase student acceptance of whole grain foods required in school meals. Among responding districts:

  • White wheat flour is utilized by 80% to give whole grain foods a lighter appearance
  • 70% have conducted student taste tests to promote whole grain options and gather student feedback 
  • 39% helped students adjust by gradually increasing the amount of whole wheat flour in recipes

Despite these proactive steps, 65% of responding districts report challenges with the current mandate that all grains offered with school meals be whole grain rich; 22% of responding districts note a “significant challenge”

  • Among districts reporting difficulties, 96% cite challenges with student acceptance and more than half (54%) note the higher cost of whole grains.
  • When asked to identify which whole grain food is most troublesome, pasta or noodleswas the top concern, named by nearly half of these districts.
  • Nearly one-third of respondents have obtained a whole grain waiver. An additional 19% indicate they would like to acquire a waiver, but nearly 50% of these respondents feel there are barriers to applying for or receiving a waiver.


Schools reported employing a wide range of tactics to meet sodium limits for school meals. Notably:

  • 73% of responding districts have reformulated recipes
  • Increased scratch preparation of foods was cited by 61%
  • 57% have limited the service of condiments
  • One-third have reduced portion sizes

Despite these efforts, schools nationwide express concerns about sodium limits:

  • 92% of responding school districts are concerned about the availability of foods that will meet future sodium limits and are well accepted by students; 58% of respondents report they are “very concerned.”
  • 88% face challenges with student acceptance or familiarity of reduced sodium foods.
  • A large majority of respondents also cite challenges with naturally occurring sodium in foods such as milk, low-fat cheese and meat; product or ingredient availability; and sodium levels in condiments.


USDA Locks In School Nutrition Tweaks

The Department of Agriculture on Wednesday released an interim final rule that will cement changes to school meals that Perdue announced in May. The measure, which goes into effect for the 2018-19 school year, will stave off stricter sodium restrictions that were set to kick in last summer and locks in flexibility that Perdue has provided to schools that are having a hard time meeting the whole-grain standards. It also will give schools the option to serve 1-percent flavored milk. Previously, non-fat flavored milk and low-fat milk were permitted as part of the nutrition standards.

SNA is pumped: The School Nutrition Association lauded the increased flexibility districts are being given to meet the standards, citing continued challenges at schools across the country.

"School nutrition professionals have achieved tremendous progress, modifying recipes, hosting student taste-tests and employing a wide range of other tactics to meet regulations while also encouraging students to enjoy healthier school meals," Lynn Harvey, SNA president, said in a statement. "Despite these efforts, school nutrition professionals continue to report challenges with sodium and whole grain mandates, as well as limited access to whole grain waivers."

About those challenges: The group cited recent survey data from its members that found 65 percent of districts still have trouble with the requirement to serve only whole-grain-rich products. The survey also found that 92 percent of responding districts were concerned about the availability of foods that would meet future sodium limits and also be "well accepted by students."

Chocolate milk side note: SNA didn't lobby for the changes to the dairy rules, which will make it easier to get chocolate and strawberry low-fat milk onto lunch trays. That was the work of the dairy industry. 

Health advocates are not pleased: Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and many other advocates condemned USDA's move. "The proposal is a hammer in search of a nail," Wootan said in a statement. "Virtually 100 percent of schools are already complying with the final nutrition standards, including the first phase of sodium reduction."

Reality check: Despite what headlines have suggested, the changes to the nutrition standards are relatively modest. They leave in place most of the standards championed by former first lady Michelle Obama under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.


Where is USDA's Measure to Change School Lunch Rules?

On July 6, USDA sent an interim final rule to the White House that would change some of the school lunch standards championed by former first lady Michelle Obama, including stalling restrictions on salt and locking in flexibility in meeting the mandate to serve only whole-grain-rich foods. The rule is still there, though perhaps not for long. The review being conducted by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is supposed to take 90 days, but officials can ask for a three-month extension. The rule has now been under review for 96 days, and the White House has yet to seek more time. 

Flashback to the lunchroom: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue visited a Leesburg, Va., elementary school a week after taking office to announce he'd give schools more leeway to meet the school nutrition standards beefed up during the Obama administration. While he praised Michelle Obama's efforts on child nutrition, Perdue said schools should be able to serve food that students find palatable and that administrators shouldn't be forced-fed regulations that have increased expenses in some cases. Pros, brush up on that announcement here.

A USDA spokesman told MA the rule is still a top priority for Perdue. "The regulatory development process is well underway, and we are working with the Office of Management and Budget to facilitate completion and prompt publication of the rule," the spokesman said.


USDA Launches Energize Your Day with School Breakfast

Energize Your Day with School Breakfast is a collection of digital resources available on the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) website. The collection can be used by program operators and other stakeholders to establish or expand the breakfast service within their school. The three modules on the website are: “Getting Started with School Breakfast,” “Implementing Your Program,” and “Marketing Your Program.” The toolkit is intended to help schools determine which type of meal service is best for them, calculate costs of operation in conjunction with helping to develop both menus and a marketing plan to encourage student participation. SNA also provides several School Breakfast Program (SBP) resources, such as the archived Operating a Breakfast in the Classroom Program: Everything You Want to Know About Implementation webinar and this report on school breakfast service times.


SNA’s 2017 School Nutrition Trends Report

SNA released its 2017 School Nutrition Trends Report, a summary of findings from a survey conducted with SNA members. The report contains information on menu trends related to student customization, flavor trends and clean label ingredients. 60% of responding districts are offering new menu items that feature international flavors, 56% report serving cleaner label choices and over half offer made-to-order or self-serve entrée bars! The survey also revealed that school nutrition professionals have employed a wide range of tactics to meet sodium and whole grain regulations, but continue to face challenges and express concerns about meeting those particular mandates. For more information, check out SNA’s press release on the report, or read the report summary here.


SNA Submits Comment on Identifying Regulatory Reform Initiatives

SNA  submitted a comment in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Federal Register Notice on July 17, 2017, Identifying Regulatory Reform Initiatives, which requested ideas from the public on how USDA can provide better customer service and remove unintended barriers to participation in their programs. SNA used the responses collected from the survey sent out about the topic to highlight priority areas where reforms should be directed. Those priority areas include ensuring that students from food insecure households are not “priced out” of the school nutrition programs due to paid lunch equity, streamlining the multiple program regulations for school districts operating multiple child nutrition programs, offering flexibility in the variety of fruits and vegetables being offered, and understanding the impact of Smart Snacks on fiscal sustainability. SNA will continue to provide feedback and raise additional ideas for change in order to promote healthy meals for our nations’ students. 



School Nutrition Professionals Recognized in Congress

SNA was honored to collaborate with Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill-13) in developing a special recognition for school nutrition professionals, which Rep. Davis delivered in the United States’ House of Representatives on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. The recognition highlighted all the important work that school nutrition professionals do every school day to ensure that children are eating healthy, balanced meals that enable them to succeed and work their hardest in the classroom. School nutrition staff are a vital part of the education system, and you should take special pride in the work you do feeding millions of children and making their lunchroom experience an enjoyable one. SNA, and Congressman Davis on behalf of the U.S House of Representatives, are enormously proud to honor you and recognize your hard work.

SNA is also excited to share our new advocacy video, which helps to explain some of the challenges and goals of school meal programs. The video features several SNA members discussing the positive impact of school nutrition professionals on the lives of students, and why it’s important to serve nutritious, balanced school meals. Feel free to share this video at your state meetings and with your local legislators!


Promote Your School Nutrition Program with Tools from SNA

SNA offers many valuable tools and resources to help you promote your school nutrition program this year. Read More


Trump Administration, USDA Names New Leadership

U.S Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on Wednesday, July 19, the names of three new individuals who will be taking leadership roles within the U.S Department of Agriculture. Brandon Lipps will serve as the Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), while also serving as Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Food and Nutrition Consumer Services (FNCS) until a permanent appointee is nominated by the president and approved by the Senate. Previously, Lipps worked for the Texas Tech University System as the Chief of Staff and Director of Federal Affairs in the Office of Chancellor Robert Duncan, served as counsel and senior professional staff to the U.S House Committee on Agriculture, and held various positions under Chancellor Duncan while he served as Texas State Senator.

Maggie Lyons will serve as Chief of Staff and senior advisor to the Under Secretary. Before joining the USDA, Lyons was the Senior Government Relations Director for the National Grocers Association (NGA) and worked on Capitol Hill in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Lastly, Kailee Tkacz will serve as policy advisor to the Under Secretary. Her work experience includes serving as the Director of Food Policy for the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), Director of Government Affairs for the Snack Food Association and Government Affairs Manager for the National Grocers Association.

Regarding the staffing announcements, Secretary Perdue issued this statement:

“The health and nutrition programs administered by USDA play a tremendous role in the Administration’s efforts to improve education and job readiness. I have no doubt that Brandon, Maggie, and Kailee will help further our mission of feeding the world and making decisions in our nutrition programs that are science-based and data-driven. I welcome Brandon, Maggie, and Kailee to the USDA family and I thank them for their desire to serve this nation.”

Also on Wednesday, the White House sent the Senate Agriculture committee its official notice of intent to nominate Stephen Censky for USDA Deputy Secretary. Censky previously served at USDA in both the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations and worked on the 1990 farm bill. He most recently served as the American Soybean Association’s Chief Executive Officer for 21 years. You can view an organizational chart of these positions and others within USDA on the USDA website.