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

LAC Fourth General Session - March 2, 2009

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Session begins.

Ed Cooney: Congressional Hunger Center
CN Forum and NANA working together first time ever
Need for $4 billion not just one – one is a good start
“There will be a [CNR] bill, it will have nutrition standards, will address competitive foods standards. A reasonable conversation is ongoing."

Jennifer Weber: American Dietetic Association
ADA National Nutrition Month: Helping all Americans to Eat Right.
Lots of overlap, members of ADA in the room
Politics of nutrition standards
Forming the position for the association
ADA put together a task force in 2002 – competitive foods and nutrition education in schools.
I hope we can all work together.
Schools, community and government – have a responsibility to provide healthy lifestyle.  Schools should contribute to Dietary Guidance (Ed mentioned too).  School based nutrition education so important.  Research looking at effectiveness of nutrition education, behavioral change.

We didn’t get everything we wanted in 03-04
Local wellness policies made great progress, brought up the issue for the states, community, parents, also illustrated the challenges with nutrition standards implementation.
Every American has a right to access to healthy food – need school nutrition professionals to help do this.

There is broad consensus on nutrition standards in schools- competitive foods – groups, Congress, Administration.

1. End time and place
2. Implementation as soon as possible of IOM school meal recommendations when presented
3. Need adequate funding – reimbursement increases
4. Strengthen nutrition education and promotion: Team Nutrition Network
5. Increase research

Nutrition satisfaction – appealing to students, cost effective manner
Key recommendations to pair healthcare reform and child nutrition reauthorization

Bob Earle of Grocery Manufacturers of America
Great deal of synergy among groups.  Important balance – preventing childhood overweight – promote optimal nutrition.
Deliver on taste and food forms, minimize multiple standards for food companies, economic feasibility

School – industry relationship collaboration – innovation on different products to respond to demand from school nutrition programs for more nutritious meals
What would the landscape and outcome be if there were adequate resources to have all children receive school breakfast and lunch?

Marshall Matz: Charge to the Hill

A new day in Washington. A new change.

Secretary Vilsack said it all.
The first time in our lifetime that all stars in alignment
Two Committee Chairs, President, Agriculture Secretary
Now – how do we get it?

On the issue of fighting hunger: not a partisan issue

1. support goal of eliminating hunger by 2015
2. and improve the quality of school meal programs.
3. do not focus on where money comes from – focus on why the funding is needed, what is at stake is the health of our children.

LAC Third General Session - March 2, 2009

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Third General Session beginning.

Global child nutrition policy scholar CP Dasa has arrived and was welcomed by the audience.

Dr. Brian Wansink is a professor from Cornell University and director of the Food Brand Lab.  He is a Fulbright Senior Specialist in food policy and nutrition.  He was the Executive Director of the Center for Nutrition and Public Policy at USDA.  He is a noted author on nutrition and has introduced concepts such as the 100 calorie pack.

Dr. Wansink is speaking about “smarter lunchrooms.”  He’s starting with an overview of compensation behavior and its key implications for school lunches.  He’s also going to show 2 new studies on changes that can make lunch rooms better.  Compensation behavior or why do some people gain weight when they go on diets?  Although people start exercising and eating low fat or healthy foods, compensate by eating more calories, since they reward themselves.  We see compensating behavior with children if we command them – such as Clean Your Plate, kids will eat more food.  How do we prevent?  Nudge them into making good decisions with out them realizing it.

Change the lunchroom and we can change their behavior.  “Stealth health” or getting people healthy without them knowing it.
Dr. Wansink gave an example:  Bottle-neck in lunch lines at cash register, Lots of unhealthy food around, Kids impulse buy unhealthy food.
Solutions to this problem are: Move snacks – Disadvantage lost revenue; won’t do it

Part II of the presentation – two studies on designing smarter lunch rooms
School lunches offer substantial control – you can control certain aspects.
Take “Bad foods off the menu” or guide or “nudge” healthier behaviors.
Interesting idea – does cash make you eat better?  Dr. Wansink is referencing a study that found that kids who pay cash “buy more of the good stuff than the bad stuff.”  Why is this?  One reason – do you think about things when you use a credit card?  Counting out money makes you less likely to make an indulgence purchase.
In the study, college students were give debit cards or $10 cash.  Given a menu with both healthy and less healthy items.  If kids were given restricted debit cards (must by healthier foods), they chose healthier items – these students were happier because they were allowed to choose.
Conclusion: Making students pay cash for the indulgences still gives them the freedom to choose.

Study #2 – eating habits in the home don’t end at breakfast… or in childhood.
The Name Game - Would change the name of some items, such as peas to Power Peas.  When you change the names of things, it changes your expectations and make it should better.  Example: Green Beans – Flash frozen fresh Garden State Green Beans.
You can make foods cooler by introducing favorable icons to foods.  Re-label foods – “X-ray vision carrots” kids would eat them, call it “food of the day”, the kids still thought they were nasty carrots.  If once labeled, consumption increased for three days after.
If you name something healthy, the kids won’t eat it.

Here are some ideas for next steps:
Share your own Smarter Lunchroom ideas at
Consider… high school cash payments for indulgences.  Elementary schools – ask a new staffer to play the Name Game.
Become a research partner (or media partner)
Pilot a new program with us
Be a model “Lunchroom of the Future” – new high school facilities

Question time:
A member from Ohio is sharing her comments about implementing a POS system that tracks student purchases.

Lynn Hoggard is now introducing Cindy Long, Director the Child Nutrition Division at USDA.
Cindy Long is here with Cathie McCullough from the Food Distribution Division

First up – School Food Service Equipment Grant assistance in the stimulus package – this got applause from the audience.These grants are targeted at schools with at least 50% F/RP.  USDA is working on guidance at this time and should have information about the grant process in the coming weeks.  There will be expectations that grantees will need to share information about how the money will be used.

Fresh Fruit and Veggie Program – farm bill made this a nationwide program. (more applause).  More money was included and will continue to grow over the next few years.  Application process for next school year will start soon.

Child Nutrition Reauthorization – USDA is preparing for this bill.  Held listening sessions around the country – with over 300 persons participating.  Encouraging members to take advantage of listening sessions and other public meetings.  Also collected comments – 14,000 came in.  Shooting for the end of the month to get comments posted online.

Key issues:
Increased funding
Eliminating reduced price category
Establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold at school
Expand Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program
Require more dietary preference options

What’s USDA doing with this information?  Doing best for provide information to policy makers and Obama administration officials.  Can’t share any details, because we’re not quite there yet.

Issue of Access:
Simplified Summer – The Simplified Summer Food Program was extended nationwide last year.  Encouraged schools to participate in this program if they aren’t already.  Thanked the partners that participate in the summer feeding conference:
National Recreation and Parks Association
Great conference that had a lot of idea sharing.

Breakfast Tool Kit – USDA recently released a revised toolkit, which is now available as an online resource.  Focus is on efforts to expand participation in places with breakfast programs in place.  Webinar from February 11, 2009 available online.

Direct Certification – Congress asked USDA to report every year about how students are direct certified.  There is an opportunity to use this tool much more effectively than we currently are.  Process can be improved.

Upcoming Research Studies
School Food Purchase Study III
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Evaluation
These are the three biggest ones that will be going into the field in the next year.  Please participate if asked to!
American Community Survey for NSLP Claiming Rates
IOM Review of Meal Patterns and Nutrition Standards
Waiting for recommendations – expected in December 2009.  Plan to move very quickly into rulemaking to implement the recommendations and get a final rule.  Also added Child and Adult Care Feeding Program to IOM review.  Those standards expected October 2010

HealthierUS School Challenge
Premier project for promoting school meals.  Sets very challenging standards for school foods, competitive foods, physical activity, and nutrition education. 544 elementary schools received bronze, silver or gold.  Updated criteria in January 2009.  Updated criteria reflects the 2005 Dietary Guidelines.  All information is available on  An online application is also coming.

Dietary Guidelines Fact Sheets – designed to be used by foodservice level individuals.  Available on website.
Team Nutrition Publications
Team Up at Home
MyPyramid for Kids
Eat Smart. Play Hard.
Power of Choice
Empowering Youth
Nutrition Essentials
Recent focus, publications for preschoolers.  Recently released MyPyramid for Preschoolers.
Nibble for Health
Grow It, Try It, Like! – supports school garden concept, but targeted at preschool
Two-Bite Club
USDA Recipes for Child Care

Question Time:

Connecticut member asked that USDA rethink restriction on equipment grants that it is limited to 50% free and reduced.  Many districts that are 20-30 f/rd have very old kitchens.  Unfortunately, the 50% threshold is included in the statue.

Cathie McCullough is the next speaker.  She is the Director of the Food Distribution Division at USDA

Web Based Supply Chain Management Transition
DoD Fruits and Vegetable Program
USDA Foods Image Improvements

Web Based Supply Chain Management – replacing 30 year old program.
Timeline – December 31, 2009 is the schedule switch over

DoD Fresh – funding changed, took away spending cap.  Had approximately $56 million for SY 2009.
Security Certificates – require every user to have one at $150 per user to get into system.  Currently looking at another way to avoid charging people for certificates.
FFAVORS vs. STORES for ordering – eliminating FFAVORS and replacing with STORES.  Waiver to keep FFAVORS until June 2010 until we can build bridge to Web Based Supply Chain

The Peanut Recall – general American issue, not just USDA issue.
Big impact in the commercial world… Relatively small impact in the world of USDA Foods.  Most of tainted product consumed
Lessons learned from beef recall:
Expectation of local level notification…
Fix: Commodity Alert System – in place now, can access by visiting the website.  Must subscribe to website system.

USDA Bonus SY 2009 Purchases
Cut-up chicken
Bulk chicken (processing)
Orange juice
Frozen Cherries

Whole Grain Pilot
Requires purchase and study $4 million total of additional whole grain products for school meals
Whole grain pancakes and tortilla chips
If you are interested in finding out about products, contact USDA FDD

USDA Foods Training Opportunities
IOM and FRAC presentations
NFSMI Satellite Seminar – go to USDA’s website

USDA Foods Image Improvements
Vision – change misperceptions, increase participation
They are always looking for new ideas – contact them at
Also, sent them your recipes!  They are looking for foods to showcase at ANC.

Session closed.

March 2, 2009 - LAC Day Three - Secretary Vilsack

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Around 10 AM on March 2, 2009, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed over 715 school nutrition professionals at the SNA Legislative Action Conference: inspiring them and motivating to continue advocating strongly for healthy meals for kids:

The word hero is so often heard today.  The word hero should apply to people who make a difference, who make change in the lives of children.  “I am in a hall of heroes today!

The Department of Agriculture is committed to increasing the significance and improving nutritional value of all food.  The Department is also committed to the Presidents pledge to eradicate childhood hunger.  “You have a partner at the USDA!  We want to work with you!”

We are committed to improving the nutritional value of food for kids at home and school.  We are committed to improving the nutritional value of school breakfast and lunch – we want to increase the amount and improve access to fruits and vegetables.  We are committed to the Healthier US School Challenge.  We are committed to improving the nutritional value of food in vending machines.  

The President’s budget is more than numbers; it is an important statement on values.  We were asked to hold the line on budget but also added new funding.  The result is a combination of increased resources and balancing funding for programs.
USDAs choice: Increase and add to resources for the safety net and payments to farmers for tough times? Or do we put more resources into the National School Lunch Program as part of reauthorization.

Some, not all, farmers are in a slightly better position than the 30 million kids that participate in the lunch program.

By limiting payments for very large agricultural operations, 90,000 farmers are impacted by this decision. 30 million kids will be impacted by the new funding.

It is important to put resources into this program for the kids we care about. It is a tough choice but it is a good choice. Advance the fate of 30 million children.

I grew up as a fat kid. "I know what is like."  I do not want kids to go through that. That is why we advocate for dietary guidelines, and promote healthy meals. What does it say about us if we deny nutritious meals to 30 million children? 

“I believe in my heart of hearts and in my gut that the country is a about those 30 million children.”  America is a great and noble country; this is great and noble cause. We are asking folks over here to give a little so youngsters can get a little more. That is what this about - what this country is about: about helping children to brighter and better future and making sure they are healthier and better educated. Take pride in that choice, let us fight for those kids and give them the chance. I'm here today to ask you to join me in this fight.

“I get it – I look forward to working with you to see that Congress makes the right choice – our president certainly has.”  Let me tell you about President Obama.  He is extraordinarily confident in the capacity of this country to meet any challenge.  He knows more about us than we know about ourselves.  The President is confident in us. 

It is a moral outrage to have a single hungry person in this country – or a single hungry child.  This is the time for America to say it is unacceptable to have a hungry child. 

“I am not concerned about turf – I am concerned about results – I am concerned about feeding children!” 

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!”