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Exciting Insights from the SNA Legislative Action Conference in D.C.!



This week, school nutrition experts gathered at the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) Legislative Action Conference (LAC) in Washington DC. The attendees, who are deeply involved in the provision and oversight of school meals programs across the country, had several pressing issues on their agenda. The conference provided a platform for discussions on improving meal reimbursement rates, impending changes to nutrition standards, and the broader ambition of implementing universal meals for all.

 

Key topics and takeaways include:

 

  1. Advocacy for Higher Reimbursement Rates

    1. A critical issue that resonated throughout the conference was the challenge of operating a sustainable meal program with inadequate meal reimbursement rates. The USDA urged school nutrition professionals to meet with congressional representatives to push for higher reimbursement rates for school meals, as the USDA is not able to change the rates without approval from Congress. With costs rising, a staggering 99.3% of surveyed school nutrition professionals report that increasing costs pose a substantial challenge, with less than 20% believing the current reimbursement rates cover the cost of producing a meal. The SNA is advocating for a 40-cent increase per lunch and a 15-cent boost per breakfast in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program to mitigate this.

  2. Concerns Over Nutrition Standards Changes

    1. The conference also spotlighted anxieties regarding the upcoming modifications to School Nutrition Standards, which propose limits on added sugars and further sodium restrictions. Attendees expressed worries that these changes might reduce student participation in school meal programs and increase food waste. USDA officials at the conference reassured attendees of their commitment to collaborate with school nutrition professionals in implementing the new standards, promising new recipes and tools to help meet these requirements. With the final rule expected to be published next month, the focus remains on balancing nutritional improvements without deterring student participation.

  3. Universal Healthy Meals Initiative and Recognition Awards

    1. A highlight of the conference was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's reaffirmation of his support for universal access to healthy school meals for all students across the country. He also announced the first recipients of the Healthy Meals Incentives Recognition Awards, recognizing districts that excel in school nutrition and underscore the USDA's commitment to promoting healthy eating habits among students. Award recipients, including districts from Iowa, Ohio, Alaska, and Maine, were acknowledged for their innovative approaches to enhancing school nutrition.

 

Each year, the LAC serves as a critical forum for school nutrition professionals to voice their concerns, share insights, and advocate for the support needed to ensure all students have access to nutritious and appealing meals. As they return to their districts with new knowledge and strategies, the hope is that their collective advocacy will lead to tangible improvements in school nutrition policies and practices nationwide.

 

School Food and Wellness Group remains committed to simplifying the latest policy changes so your meal program remains compliant. As more details become available, we will continue to issue updates to ensure you have the latest information.

 

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