From the Kitchen to the Congress: A Child Nutrition Reauthorization Blog

LAC 2009: Day Two Continued: SNA Legislative Issue Paper

 Permanent link

After the break - the First General Session kicked off.  After an Association Update, SNA's Washington Counsel Marshall Matz, SNA President Dr. Katie Wilson, school nutrition director of Onalaska , Wisc., SNA Public Policy Chair Craig Weidel of Mesa Schools, Arizona, and SNA Staff Vice President of Policy Cathy Schuchart.

LAC registration has reached 718 in attendance, and those 718 individuals represent an enrollment of over 7 million students across the country!

2009 Reauthorization Issue Paper presented.  Top priorities - Nutrition Standards and Increased Funding.  Those were determined through member input at meetings, forums and through surveys.

Allied organizations play a critical role: SNA co-chairs the Child Nutrition Forum with the Food Research and Action Center. SNA is active in the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity chaired by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Moving forward there is a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing this coming Wednesday. The budget process in Congress is coming up soon and will determine the amount of funding available for child nutrition reauthorization. Staffing at USDA will play a role as additional officials are announced in the Food and Nutrition Service.

Marshall Matz: There is magic in the air.  There is history in the air.

April 30, 1789, George Washington sworn in as president. 220 years later President Obama was sworn in this year.

For the first time ever, a president has called for an end to childhood hunger in 6 years. He has started with $1 billion per year.  

Increase of $1 billion year: enhancing access, improving nutrition in school meals, improving program oversight.

It is a conservative thought to invest in kids, to invest in education.

All priorities in the SNA issue paper costs close to $2 billion per year. That includes a 35 cent increase in lunch reimbursements, 20 cents for breakfast, elimination of the reduced price category, 10 cents in breakfast commodity entitlement. 

I think we need about $4 billion per year for child nutrition.

Indirect costs are an issue that needs to be addressed: school meal funds should go to feeding kids, not paying for overhead costs or salaries of administrators.

One message to Congress: We are here to support the Presidents call to end childhood hunger by 2015, particularly using schools to accomplish this goal.

A. Need more money to address hunger and access issues.

B. Standards: There is an agreement on the need for giving the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to regulate all foods and beverages sold in schools.





Blogging from LAC 2009: Day Two

 Permanent link

After several breakout sessions on grassroots advocacy this morning, conference attendees gathered for lunch in the ballroom to hear the keynote address by Ronald Brownstein, commentator and political director for Atlantic Media Company, with responsibility for coordinating overall political coverage at its publications, which include the Atlantic, National Journal, the Hotline and Congress Daily. He writes a weekly column on politics and policy which appears simultaneously in National Journal and the Los Angeles Times, as well as articles in National Journal and The Atlantic.

His key points on the challenges facing the Obama Administration:

Hard to talk about the election in past tense - the campaign went on for so long. It was like a reality show.

15,000 million more people voted in the Democratic primary than in the past.

The election was compelling and dramatic.  The Democratic primary, the McCain story of coming back after summer 2007.

Why was the election historic? First black American, but also first country to elect someone as a national leader from a group that makes up 12% of the population.

The election came after a long spell of parity between the parties. 2000 election second narrowest presidential election in history, even Senate with 50 members of each party.

Very different story in 2008. Only second Democrat since WWII to win more than 51% of the electorate. Won seven states that voted for Bush twice. States like Virginia, North Carolina hadn't voted Democratic in years. In Congress as well, the Democrats now have a large majority.

Fundamentally what seemed to happen was the party in power was replaced by the party not in power.

Other elements of the election have more sweep.

The coalition of the ascending - Obama had great success among groups that are increasing in size and influence. Whites cast less than 3/4ths of the vote for the first time ever. Obama won handily among Asians, African Americans and Hispanics, all group that are growing.

Obama also did dramatically well among young voters. Two thirds of the youth vote went to Obama, way up from previous elections. One third of millennials were eligible to vote, by 2016 half of millennials will vote. The initial contact with the Democratic party could mean that this group will vote solidly with Democrats.

Third group and profound change in politics: the highly educated went overwhelmingly for Obama.

By 2000 an era of culture trumping class. Blue collar votes trended Republican in 2008, as it has for the last several election. Obama continued the trend of white, college educated voters voting Democratic.

In this election, Denver, Charlotte and Northern Virginia suburbs went for Democratic continuing a trend started under Clinton.

Nothing in politics is permanent.

Eighteen states have voted Democratic the past 5 elections. Those states represent 90% of the electoral votes need to win the presidency.

The Democratic majority is strong in Congress as well - an enormous victory on election day but equally as challenging to govern because of the diverse expectations of those who voted them into power.

The Obama Administration realizes the magnitude of this year and sees it as 1933 or 1981, an opportunity to make fundamental changes in government this year. 

There were more changes and program expansion in the stimulus bill that passed than in the eight years that Clinton was in office.

How far will Red State Democrats go on the spending side? A potential headache but a useful headache for the Administration.

The Republicans in office in Congress represent the most conservative parts of the country making it challenging for the Administration to work with them.

He concluded on the need for vision as working for all Americans rather than just his party as Theodore Roosevelt vocalized decades ago.

The First General Session on SNA's Legislative Issue Paper will begin at 2:15 PM Eastern.


SNA Legislative Action Conference - Day One

 Permanent link

On February 28, 2009, the 37th annual School Nutrition Association Legislative Action Conference (LAC) unofficially kicked off with two pre-conference education sessions on lobbying state legislatures and the financial challenges of school nutrition today, along with several meetings. We will be blogging live from the conference over the next few days until the gathering closes on Wednesday, March 4, 2009. To get us started - here is a quick preview of the upcoming meeting:

  • Over 695 people have registered thus far, and counting. The vast majority are school nutrition directors from almost every state. They represent large, medium and small school districts, located in urban, suburban and rural parts of the country.
  • They are all gathering in Washington, DC, because of three central reasons: school nutrition programs are in dire need of adequate financial support and Congress can help provide that; consistent nutrition standards must be adopted for all foods and beverages available in schools; and finally because this year Congress will reauthorize the federal child nutrition programs.
  • Attendees are excited to hear from the many speakers scheduled including: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) Political commentator Ronald Brownstein will also speak, as will nutrition experts Dr. Keith Ayoob, Dr. Brian Wansink, and Dr. Virginia Stallings.
  • On Tuesday, school nutrition professionals will take to Capitol Hill - advocating for school nutrition funding and nutrition standards.
  • Immediately following the conference on Wednesday morning at the new time of 9:30 AM, SNA president Dr. Katie Wilson will be testifying before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee at a hearing entitled "Improving Nutrition for America's Children in Difficult Economic Times."

It will be a jam packed four days and we will try to cover it all right here.  Stay tuned and join in by posting your thoughts below!