School Nutrition and Appropriations: Signs of Relief?

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AASA remains concerned about the overreach and unfunded nature of requriements within the school nutrition program, formally known as the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. The bill, while well intentioned, includes massive misalignment between the focus on higher nutritional standards and the ability of local school districts to implement the costly changes without adequate federal support. AASA is absolute in our support for the federal nutrition program, recognizing the role the program plays in ensuring that students are not a hungry: a fed child is a better student. We strive to ensure that federal policy aimed at this goal reflects the realities of implementation, an approach that has been reflected in our comments on various regulations related to the bill, including recent comments on the proposed national standards for certification and training of food service personnel and proposed changes to school wellness policies.

Efforts to provide school districts relief from some of the more onerous regulations have played out in Congress, including this year’s appropriations work. AASA supports the proposal for $25 million for school mean equipment as well as a proposal to require the USDA Secretay to establish a process by which a state can grant a temporary waiver of compliance from the national nutritional standards. The waiver is critical in providing LEAs relief from the soaring operational costs association with the federal mandates, however unintended, as well as increase plate waste and decreased program participation. AASA is opposed to language that would limit access to the summer nutrition program to only rural areas.

The House passed its FY15 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, and posted the FY 2015 Agriculture Bill - Full Committee Draft and FY 2015 Agriculture Bill – Draft. Committee Report. The relevant language to the school nutrition program is on page 45 of the committee report.

For a little humor: The report includes language calling for a report from the USDA Secretary ensuring that the cafeterias within the USDA and that all vending machines in the National Capital Area meet the same requirements as the school nutrition program. I appreciate the sentiment. Make the agency that writes the regulations have to comply with them. Let’s not forget that there are multiple players in any bill. Congress passed the law before USDA started regulating; perhaps those standards/regulations should apply to all Congressional cafeterias!

 


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