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

Second General Session LAC - March 2, 2009

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Second General Session:

Opening speaker is Dr. Keith Ayoob.  Dr. Ayoob explains, Wellness policies are a "festival" of individualization at the district level.  Many times the development of wellness policies turns out to be parental philosophy over science. 

Ayoob says, "What you need is ONE NATIONAL POLICY" which will meet the needs of most children, supply the good stuff, and minimize the bad stuff.   The national policy should keep up with the DGAs without "overachieving."  A national policy would drive reformulation and national funding. 

Why do school meals work?  Kids who participate in school meals are more likely to drink milk, eat fruits and vegetables, and get more calcium and potassium - nutrients of concern.  Research was done from the University of "Duh"!  Kids who don’t participate are more likely to drink "junk" beverages, and eat more sweets and desserts.

40% of kids don’t eat breakfast everyday.  Kids who eat breakfast do better in school, have better attendance, have better diets and are more likely to be normal weight.  Why does school breakfast work? More fresh fruit, less whole milk, more flavored skim milk.  What are the problems? Competitive foods LNED (low nutrient energy dense) foods, too much sodium, low fiber - increased funding would improve the problems. 

In NY 30% of kids are obese.  45% are overweight AND obese!  Are children only eating one meal a day - probably not?  Kids are becoming overweight before they even go to school. 

Flavored milk: Friend or Foe? This is one example of how many communities "overachieve."  In 2006, NY removed all flavored milk and all milk fat varieties other than skim to reduce sugar and fat intake.  Milk consumption dropped 10% in 2006.  This equals 100,000 children not drinking milk - missing out on the vital calcium and potassium content of milk.  "This is unacceptable!” Fighting to get flavored milk back was like the "showdown at the O.K. corral."  Major study shows that flavored milk drinkers got more calcium, but did not eat more sugar than non-milk drinkers.  AAP encourages healthful meal patterns and discouraged restrictive eating policies. 

Do we have active kids?  Kids are busy, but not always physically active. 

What are some of the solutions that School Nutrition would like to do more of and have more of?  More semi-scratch cooking, lower fat/lower sodium commodities, reformulated products to reduce sodium, continue to reduce fried foods. 

Make it cool again.  Fewer competitive foods mean more participation. Emphasize that kids who eat school meals eat healthier diets overall.  Emphasize less meat and more plant based diets. 

How can you communicate with parents, kids and legislators?  Everyone wants health information.  Students and parents need different messages.  Redefine fitness, healthy eating and health in general.  Try to facilitate communications between students, parents and school nutrition personnel.

What SNA needs most: Parents are necessary partners.  They are the primary influencers of eating behaviors and they have a responsibility to expose kids to a wide range of foods and model good eating behavior.  If parents don’t eat vegetables, don’t be surprised when their children don't either. 

The goal is healthier children!   Schools are not making kids fat - the other 18 hours a day are!  The problem isn’t schools! 

Dr. Ayoob received a standing ovation from the audience.  "You guys are the best.  I will come back and talk to you anytime!" says Dr. Ayoob. 


Audience asked for more friends like Dr. Ayoob.  "You say a lot of things we are thinking but can’t say in our schools."

How do you recommend we deal with the casein free/gluten free diets for autistic children? Dr. Ayoob - Ask for the science - not the case studies.  There may be some kids who are better responders, but this diet is not proven.  If there are prescriptive medical diets they should be done outside of the NSLP.  You should ask for a fund to provide physician authorized prescriptive diet needs that are life threatening.  Just because a doctor writes a request doesn’t mean it is based in science.  SNA should look at special needs in the national policy.    National Policy should allow language to help you deal with this.  "I don’t think schools meals should be turned into a pharmacy."

What is a reasonable level of sodium?  How do we deal with it?  3000 mg may be a realistic goal.  Some foods just need some sodium to retain flavor.  If you can get to 800 mg per meal, you are doing way better than everyone else.  Use sodium to drive consumption of nutrient dense foods.  The key is gradual steps. 

Whole Foods ad: What if schools cared as much about feeding your children as you do?  Schools need more information in the media to respond to ads like this.  Dr. Ayoobs response: Tell the moms to buy the food, deliver the food, cook the food, meet federal nutrition guidelines and serve the food and clean it up all for $2.57.  I see that the school food personnel care more!  SNA should take out an ad.  A national organization does carry some weight.


Congressman Jim McGovern introduced as a leading advocate for ending hunger and poverty and a friend of child nutrition. 

"I am thrilled that you invited me here today.  Today is a big day in the anti-hunger world.  It is good to know that Washington is flooded with the best child nutrition advocates in the country."

Mc Govern praised the new Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

Hunger is getting worse.  We have lacked the political will to resolve the problem, but ending hunger IS doable.   Everyone supports ending hunger.  We just need to figure out how to make our legislators “walk the walk” instead of “talk the talk.”  It breaks your heart to meet a hungry child.  We have made huge strides to end hunger; the first step was the farm bill.  Our fight continued with the passage of the Economic Recovery Act.  $20 billion was allocated for the food stamps. This will provide for critical improvements in the program.  This will be an important year for the school nutrition professionals.  You are the front lines of fighting childhood hunger.

Change has come to our country and change will come to our fight against childhood hunger.   Hunger costs our country in too many ways.  Hunger has a direct impact on obesity.  Hunger costs our country $90 bill per year but could be resolved with $12 billion a year.  President Obama’s pledge to in childhood hunger by 2015 is a welcome challenge.

Later this month McGovern will introduce legislation to end childhood hunger by 2015.  “I am thrilled with the dedication of the new administration.  We have been given an opportunity not a promise.  I will be introducing an expansive bill - some will say we can’t afford it, but I say you tell a child that we can’t do it.  This bill will guarantee free breakfast and lunch at school to every child.  We will offer breakfast at the bell and not before school starts.  We will eliminate the reduced price category and provide expansion of the summer meal program - hunger doesn’t rest during the summer.  We will expand the SNAP program -everyone who needs them gets them, including illegal immigrants.  We will hold the first White House Food Council on nutrition and hunger since the 1970s - last conference held by Nixon.  Hunger is worse now than in the 1970s.

Improve Nutrition - increase reimbursement to allow for more F&V and local foods.  New position in USDA for a hunger czar.   We will improve access to healthy foods and coordination between agencies. 

“Please keep up the fight!  All the stars are aligned for us.  This is a unique opportunity for change.  Keep up the pressure on your Members of Congress.  Compromise on these issues is no longer acceptable.  We are going to end hunger once and for all!” 



LAC 2009: Day Two Continued: SNA Legislative Issue Paper

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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

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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.