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

USDA Report Finds Eliminating Reduced Price Category Increases Participation

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The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a report late last week on the factors that lead to school nutrition program participation.  The study looked in particular at economic factors and found that students who qualified for reduced price meals were more likely to participate if they received those meals for free, suggesting that the 40 cent co-pay is a barrier for some families. SNA is advocating for an elimination of the reduced price category as part of Reauthorization.

The study results found that elementary aged children are more likely to participate than students who are in middle or high school.  The taste of the food also plays an important role, as students that enjoy the meals are more likely to participate than those who do not. More information on this report can be found at Factors Associated with Meal Participation.

Healthy School Food Lobby Day June 24

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On June 24, 2009, a Healthy School Food Lobby Day will take place on Capitol Hill to support national nutrition standards legislation, specifically HR 1324 and S. 934, the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2009. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Woolsey (D-Calif.) in the House with 140 co-sponsors and Senator Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate with 20 co-sponsors, is supported by the School Nutrition Association along with over 100 national, state and local groups. In addition to the Lobby Day, a national petition is also being conducted online allowing parents and individuals to support the legislation. The signatures will be presented during the Lobby Day next week.

SNA members can support the legislation, which ends the time and place rule and updates nutrition standards for foods sold outside of reimbursable school meals, by sending an action alert to Congress here.


Child Nutrition Reauthorization Forum Held in Connecticut

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June 17, 2009- On Monday a Child Nutrition Forum with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) was held in New Haven, Connecticut, sponsored in part by the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut, End Hunger Connecticut, the New Haven School Nutrition Department and others. DeLauro is Chairwoman of the Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Reprentatives. Participants discussed the need for national nutrition standards as well as increasing access to all of the child nutrition programs. The Forum will be aired in its entirety online tonight here.

Press coverage of the event can be accessed here and here.

New Bills Introduced on Global Hunger and Paperless 'Applications'

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June 17, 2009 - Two additional bills were introduced recently in Congress relating to child nutrition. On June 10, 2009, Senators Casey (D-PA) and Specter (D-PA) as well as Senator Bennet (D-CO) introduced S. 1226 which would amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act to improve paperless enrollment and efficiency for the national school lunch and school breakfast programs, based largely on the Philadelphia School Meal Pilot Program that has been the subject of several blog posts below. The legislation would save school nutrition programs time and money by replacing the meal application process with an alternative form of determining eligibility for free and reduced priced meals.

HR 2817 was also introduced last week. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) addresses global hunger and improves food security through the development and implementation of a comprehensive governmentwide global hunger reduction strategy and the establishment of the White House Office on Global Hunger and Food Security. The bill would increase support for global school feeding programs among many other efforts. The legislation has eight bipartisan co-sponsors.

The President and First Lady Address Reauthorization

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June 17, 2009- This week both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama separately renewed the Administration's call for a strong Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act in Congress this year and a renewed emphasis on healthy school meals. SNA continues to work with the Administration and members of Congress on key policy priorities that would result in better access to nutritious school breakfasts, lunches and snacks through the federal child nutrition programs. Read more here.

Also see media coverage of the White House Garden Harvest yesterday from the Washington Post and ABC News here and here.

Should funding for school garden/farm programs be part of child nutrition reauthorization? Post your comment below! 


USA Today, Arizona Republic, Chicago Tribune Cover Key Reauthorization Issues

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June 11 ,2009 - Headline on the front page of USA Today screams what many of us have known for some time: more students than ever are participating in National School Lunch Program through the free and reduced price categories. The paper cites USDA statistics showing that 16.5 million students now receive free school lunches daily, up 6.3% over last year, while 3.2 million receive reduced price lunches. A follow-up story inside the paper gets into the many examples of how current meal reimbursement does not cover the cost of producing a healthy school lunch.

The Arizona Republic front page also has a story on this - showing an 11.33% increase in free school lunch participation in that state. ABC News has reprinted the USA Today story on their website as well.

And the Chicago Tribune today has a different child nutrition reauthorization story today that goes directly to the need for national nutrition standards and the need for increased funding for more whole grains, fruits and veggies and lowfat dairy in school meals.

Why not take a moment and let you members of Congress know that these articles appeared today and that increased funding is critical for school nutrition programs. Over 7,089 emails have already been sent by SNA members to Congress on these issues this year, already more than the entire total for 2008. Continue to take action and make your voice heard!     

Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) Speaks at Anti-Hunger Event

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June 11, 2009 - Last night Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT,) chairwoman of the House Agriculture Appropriations  Subcommittee, was honored with the Distinguished Service Award at the Food Research and Action Center Annual Benefit Dinner. After being introduced by Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO,) Chairwoman DeLauro addressed several hundred anti-hunger and nutrition advocates and business leaders calling for a strong child nutrition reauthorization bill this year. Among the priorities she outlined that need to be addressed as part of reauthorization, an expansion of the free meal category up to 185% of poverty, increasing access to the summer feeding program, expanding the supper program, enhancing the nutritional quality of school meals, and increasing the meal reimbursement.. Former Senator George McGovern (D-SD) also took the stage at the event and called for many of the same issues to be addressed as part of child nutrition reauthorization.     

Child Nutrition Reauthorization in the News(2)

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On Monday, June 8, 2009, SNA spokesperson Peggy Lawrence SNS, who serves as child nutrition director for Rockdale County School District in Georgia, was interviewed on MyFox Atlanta Channel 5 during Good Day Atlanta on the topic of child nutrition reauthorization. Peggy focused on the need for additional funding for meal reimbursement as well as the need for consistent national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold on school campus. See the interview here: Peggy Lawrence on School

Secretary Vilsack Testifies at Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

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On June 4, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies held a hearing regarding USDA’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 appropriation request with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Chief Economist Dr. Joseph Glauber and Scott Steele, USDA’s Budget Officer. Chairman Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Ranking Member Sam Brownback (R-KS), presided over the hearing, and were joined by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Ben Nelson (DNE), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Arlen Specter (D-PA), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Christopher Bond (R-MO), and Susan Collins (R-ME.) The Secretary urged the subcommittee to understand that the FY 2010 budget request had to be developed in a very rapid time frame when few policy people were yet in place at USDA.

Asked about the Philadelphia School Meal Program, Vilsack stated that he knows the importance of the program. He pointed to the decision to discontinue it having been made by the Bush Administration when Philadelphia was notified last December. He agreed that an abrupt ending is not correct, and he is looking for ways to help Philadelphia and other areas. He wants to work to find ways to make Philadelphia a model or a pathway for a national program. He would like to see a continuation of Philadelphia rolled into opportunities for other areas, not just Philadelphia. The Secretary’s testimony can be found through Related Links below. Additionally, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee has now scheduled mark up of the fiscal 2010 USDA, FDA, Rural Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for next Thursday, June 11, at 3:00.

USDA Secretary Vilsack testimony


Eliminating the Reduced Price Category

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One of the priority issues for SNA during 2009 child nutrition reauthorization is the elimination of the reduced price category as a way to increase access to healthy school meals for families challenged by the 40 cent reduced price fee. Recently a web page was added to the SNA website with more infomation on this legislative proposal. Check it out at the link below and also comment on the need to take this step and eliminate reduced price.

Eliminating the Reduced Price Category 

First Lady Michelle Obama Comments on Healthy School Meals

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June 1, 2009 - Late last week First Lady Michelle Obama visited students at Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, DC, to follow-up with them after having worked with them earlier this spring on planting the new White House Vegetable Garden. The First Lady commented on child nutrition reauthorization as follows:   

"...we also need to think more broadly about the quality of the foods that we give our kids throughout -- what we're doing in our schools, in our school lunch programs -- because as the economy gets more troubled, there are going to be more and more kids who are going to qualify and rely on the meals that they get at schools, their breakfasts and their lunches. And the next step -- or one of the next steps in this conversation is figuring out how do we ensure, through the help of the government, as well as local communities, that the foods that our kids are getting in school each and every day is as healthy as it can be, so that we're bringing some of these lessons home and we're also expanding them in the classrooms and in the schools."

See: The First Lady Visits With Students At Bancroft Elementary School: The Full Text of Her Remarks