February 18, 2014 – Recently, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Kevin Concannon sent a letter to state school officers on the topic of unpaid meal charges. Within the letter USDA points to the recent incident in Utah on the topic of unpaid meal charges.
USDA provides different scenarios placing the expectation on state and local officials to establish workable solutions as well as encourages the option of utilizing the community eligibility provision in areas with a high free and reduced population.
USDA stated that it plans to utilize national survey data from approximately 1,500 food authority directors which will provide a better understanding of the range of school policies in existence, including offering alternate meals as well as the extent of lost revenues from unpaid meals. The letter also mentioned convening a multidisciplinary working group in the near future to solicit best practices and other recommendations in this area.
In response, SNA has sent a letter to Under Secretary Concannon offering its assistance in this matter and to also offer SNA members as a resource and member in serving on the multidisciplinary working group.
Click here to review the letter from Concannon. Click here to review SNA’s response.
On February 5, 2014, Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies and Chairman John Kline (R-MN) of the Committee on Education and the Workforce sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack calling to his attention the Congressional directive that would establish a waiver process that will provide local schools with an option to delay the implementing the new nutrition standards contained in the school breakfast and/or competitive foods regulations if the regulations are proving to be too costly.
The directive, which was included as part of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, requires USDA to complete the process within 90 days of enactment. According to the letter, both Aderholt and Kline expect that schools would have this option available to them by April 17, 2014.
SNA will learn more about the status of this waiver at LAC during the USDA Update 2014 General Session and will report back any updates.
SNA reported on this waiver in a previous story (insert link). To view the Aderholdt/Kline letter click here. Click here to review the bill.
February 4, 2014 – This weekend several national media outlets reported on the topic of unpaid meal charges, following an incident at a Salt Lake City, Utah, school cafeteria. As a result, SNA members may receive local media inquiries regarding their meal charge policies and unpaid meal debts. SNA developed these talking points to assist members in discussing the challenges of meal charge requests and debt.
SNA has conducted extensive national media outreach to educate reporters on the meal charge issue and inform them of SNA’s 2014 Position Paper, which calls on Congress and USDA to establish guidance on unpaid meal charges. ABC News, Yahoo! News and other media outlets featured SNA member concerns in their stories. Other outlets have declined to share our side of the story. For example, a member of SNA’s Spokesperson Network was scheduled to interview with CNN on the issue, but the segment was cancelled shortly before airing. SNA will continue to educate national reporters on unpaid meal charges and other issues that impact SNA members and their programs.
SNA has shared its Position Paper with the USDA. In addition we will be reaching out to USDA officials to offer our assistance in helping them find a solution to the unpaid meal charge problem, including offering to have SNA members serve on a task force to investigate the issue.
SNA will also continue to educate members of Congress regarding the problem, and will be preparing Legislative Action Conference attendees to discuss this issue during SNA’s Charge to the Hill.
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