Republican Study Committee Proposes School Meal Block Grant
Focus School Lunch Subsidies for Those Who Actually Need Them
The RSC proposes to consolidate funding for child nutrition programs into a single block grant. This would include funding for the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, Summer Food Service Program, and Special Milk Program. The block grant would give states control over where best they believe these funds overall should be allocated. This model is designed to encourage states to administer the consolidated grant funds efficiently and reduce any redundancies and deviations from promoting child nutrition among truly needy families.
One instance of deviating from the goal of benefiting truly needy families occurs in both the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. These programs are known for providing free and reduced meals at school to children from low-income families. Schools receive up to $3.33 for each free lunch served to children under 130 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), $2.93 for each reduced-price lunch served to children between 130 percent and 185 percent of the FPL, $2.04 for free breakfasts, $1.74 for reduced price breakfasts, $.86 for free afterschool snacks, and $.43 for reduced price afterschool snacks.194 Schools also receive commodities with a value of $.23 for each lunch served and can receive an additional $.06 for each lunch if they comply with certain nutritional guidelines.195
However, the School Lunch and Breakfast Programs also provide subsidies for “Full Price” meals served to those from families above 185 of the FPL. According to CBO, “in the 2016–2017 school year, federal subsidies are generally 59 cents for each lunch, 29 cents for each breakfast, and 7 cents for each snack”.196 Many conservatives may believe these subsidies, which average about $1 billion annually over the next decade, for those with the means to otherwise pay their own way are out of line with what the goals of the program should be.
Further, the “school lunch and breakfast programs are subject to widespread fraud and abuse.”197 According to the GAO, the estimated improper payment rates for the Lunch and Breakfast Programs in FY 2013 totaled 15.7 and 25.3 percent, respectively.198 States in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture must take steps to address this problem.
Income Eligibility Guidelines starting July 1, 2018
This notice announces the Department’s annual adjustments to the Income Eligibility Guidelines to be used in determining eligibility for free and reduced price meals and free milk for the period from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. These guidelines are used by schools, institutions, and facilities participating in the National School Lunch Program (and Commodity School Program), School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program for Children, Child and Adult Care Food Program and Summer Food Service Program. The annual adjustments are required by section 9 of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The guidelines are intended to direct benefits to those children most in need and are revised annually to account for changes in the Consumer Price Index. DATES: Implementation Date: July 1, 2018
The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has issued a Final Rule on Revisions and Clarifications in Requirements for the Processing of Donated Foods. It is effective July 2, 2018.
The rule requires multi-State processors to enter into National Processing Agreements to process donated foods into end products, permits processors to substitute commercially purchased beef and pork of U.S. origin and of equal or better quality for donated beef and pork, and streamlines and modernizes oversight of inventories of donated foods at processors. The rule also revises regulatory provisions in plain language, to make them easier to read and understand.
The Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House Republicans, released its own fiscal 2019 budget plan, including a farm bill proposal containing a lengthy section on entitlement programs. The proposal seeks to promote cost-savings by splitting the nutrition and farm policy titles into separate legislation. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway has indicated he wants to debate the farm bill on the floor as soon as possible in May.
As part of FY 2018 spending bill, Congress provided that only school food authorities (SFAs) with a negative balance in their school food service account as of January 31, 2018 will be required to raise prices for paid lunches under the Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) provisions in the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act.
U.S. House Agriculture Committee Approves Farm Bill
The U.S. House Agriculture Committee held a mark-up of the 2018 Farm Bill on Wednesday, April 18. Among other provisions, Title 4 of the bill legislates nutrition programs such as SNAP and National School Lunch Commodities. The five-hour discussion on Wednesday centered around changes to SNAP, including new work requirements and elimination of Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, which may impact school nutrition program direct certification in some states.
According to a Center on Budget Policy and Priorities report, the Congressional Budget Office has indicated that 265,000 students will be impacted by the elimination of Categorical Eligibility and resulting loss of access to SNAP. No longer directly certified through SNAP, parents of these students will be required to complete an application and reestablish access to free school meals.
The bill passed Committee by a vote of 26-20. Committee Chairman, Rep. Mike Conaway, stated that he plans to bring the bill to the House floor in May for a full vote. The farm bill covers five years of funding and policy changes and is due for reauthorization in 2019. SNA continues to monitor progress on the bill and urge House and Senate Agriculture Committee members to push for an expansion of USDA Foods to support the School Breakfast Program as part of the bill.
Secretary Sonny Perdue provided testimony during the April 18th U.S. House Committee on Appropriations FY2019 USDA Budget hearing. In his opening statements, Chairman Robert Aderholt thanked the USDA for providing schools with “long-overdue flexibility” and encouraged issuance of the Final Rule.
Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) introduced S. 2641, The American Food for American Schools Act of 2018, on April 10, 2018.
U.S. House Unveils Farm Bill Proposal
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) released his draft Farm Bill proposal last week signaling the beginning of efforts to renew farm and food policy legislation. The farm bill, which is due for reauthorization in 2019, covers five years of funding and policy changes in matters involving USDA. SNA continues to monitor progress on the bill and to urge House and Senate Agriculture Committee members to push for an expansion of USDA Foods to support the School Breakfast Program as part of the bill. Learn More.
USDA Expands Focus on Program Integrity Across All Nutrition Programs
WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 – As part of Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s strategic goal of ensuring that our programs are delivered efficiently, effectively and with integrity, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) announced an enhanced focus on program integrity today, that will include renewed attention on transparency, payment accuracy, fraud and waste prevention, and improved quality control.
“Where protection of taxpayer dollars is concerned – the job is never done,” said Acting Deputy Under Secretary for USDA Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Brandon Lipps. “Today we are renewing our commitment to ensuring that our nutrition programs are run as effectively and efficiently as possible; increasing program integrity while maintaining the nutrition safety net for those truly in need.”
To kick-off this renewed commitment, Acting Deputy Under Secretary Lipps announced today his intention to create a new position of Chief Integrity Officer to manage oversight, improvements, and overall integrity strategy. This position will be located in the Office of the Administrator at FNS and will be tasked with overseeing integrity initiatives in all 15 federal feeding programs administered by FNS.
In addition, FNS has initiated an independent, third-party review of its integrity efforts across the agency’s nutrition programs. This comprehensive review will support the identification of improvements to the process currently in place, as well as explore the implementation of promising practices across government and the private sector.
“Integrity is essential to meeting the mission of all FNS nutrition programs, now and into the future. we will continue to improve operations and outcomes in close collaboration with its state and local partners to combat waste, fraud, and abuse and best serve our participants and American taxpayers,” said Lipps.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which together comprise America's nutrition safety net.
USDA Budget Breakdown
Our friends on the Budget and Appropriations team are combing through all 2,232 pages of the massive spending bill signed into law last week. USDA and FDA programs will receive about $23.3 billion in discretionary spending through September under H.R. 1625 (115),about $2.4 billion more than fiscal 2017 enacted levels despite the Trump administration's calls for cuts.
Here are 2 key USDA program highlights that pertain to the Child Nutrition Programs:
- Child nutrition programs, a mandatory funding program that supports free and reduced-price meals to low-income school children, gets $24.25 million, matching the Trump request and about $2 million more than current levels. This helps pay for about 30.6 million school lunches and 15.7 million school breakfasts every day, according to the USDA.
- Commodity assistance programs, which help fund soup kitchens, food banks, farmer's market, nutrition programs and other emergency assistance programs, are slated for $322.1 million over two years. That's above the $294 million in Trump's request and current levels of $313 million.
New Funding for Nutrition Programs in Omnibus Spending Bill
On Friday, March 23, 2018, President Trump signed H.R. 1625 (115), otherwise known as Congress’ massive fiscal year 2018 spending bill. The over 2,000-page, $1.3 trillion dollar bill was introduced in the House on Wednesday night and passed on Thursday in a 256-167 vote, then went to the Senate where it was passed on Friday morning on a 65-32 vote. The bill needed to be signed into law before midnight on Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
The massive funding bill included $2 million for training school food service personnel. The funds may be accessed by a professional organization, such as SNA, to develop a training program for school nutrition personnel that focuses on school food service meal preparation and workforce development. The bill also provides $30 million for competitive grants to State agencies for sub grants to local educational agencies and schools to purchase equipment with a value of at least $1,000. The grants may be used to facilitate serving healthier meals, improve food safety, and to help support the establishment, maintenance, or expansion of school breakfast. In addition, the Omnibus bill included $5 million in funding for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, which doubles current available funding.
At a time when funding is hard to come by, the inclusion of our critical school nutrition programs is a recognition by Congress of the important role our programs play in the lives of hungry children.
Food Delivery to Schools
Learn how to combat the growing competition between your school nutrition program and food delivery services.
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:
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.
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 USDAFoods@fns.usda.gov.
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.
SNA Comments on USDA School Meal Rule
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
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:
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”
Schools reported employing a wide range of tactics to meet sodium limits for school meals. Notably:
Despite these efforts, schools nationwide express concerns about sodium limits:
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.
In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.
Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339. Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.
To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:
(1) mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
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