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Tuesday Morning April 22, 2008

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April 22, 2008

 

Table of Contents

Media Covers Rising School Meal Costs
Debate Continues on the Farm Bill
USDA Meat Inspectors Understaffed, According to Hearing Testimony
USDA Launches Barter Initiative to Supply Food Assistance Programs
State Legislative Update
Coming Soon!  Webinar on High-fructose Corn Syrup and School Wellness
Michigan Senators Encourage USDA to Buy Bonus Tart Cherries
School Breakfast in the News
Nominees Sought for 2009 Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award
 

In Every Issue

Legislative Action Center
Legislative Toolkit
PR Toolkit
State Policy Index
State and Federal Legislation
2007 - 2008 Public Policy and Legislative Committee Contacts

 

Media Covers Rising School Meal Costs

School nutrition programs grabbed headlines nationwide this week as the media covered the impact of rising food costs on healthy school meals.  Newspapers and television stations across the country carried stories about the challenges school nutrition programs are facing as soaring corn, wheat, and gas prices drive up food costs globally.  Major coverage included:

  • The Washington Post ran a front page article highlighting how districts from Alexandria, Va. to Davie County, N.C. are keeping their nutrition programs financially sound.
  • SNA President Mary Hill, SNS, addressed the issue in an interview on National Public Radio’s afternoon financial show, Marketplace.  Hill discussed how school nutrition professionals are doing everything possible to keep costs low without compromising nutritious offerings.
  • The Today Show and the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams also carried segments on rising school meal costs this week.  Both articles looked at how rising food costs are squeezing school districts nationwide.

Since January 1, 2008, SNA has tracked nearly 160 articles concerning rising meal costs, with over 50 stories tracked in the first 15 days of April. As districts complete the bid process for the next school year, many school boards are looking at the need to raise the price of a paid lunch. Newspaper reports highlight school districts requesting increases ranging anywhere from 10 cents to 30 cents per lunch.

There are a number of reasons why the cost of food is growing exponentially.  Global demand is driving corn, wheat, soy, and rice to record prices.  In the United States, many farmers are raising corn for fuel, not food.  Unprecedented fuel prices are also contributing to the record prices.   This week, Congress took note of the impact of food costs on federal food assistance programs with a briefing on the issue and a “Dear Colleague” letter to Members of Congress. For more information, please visit Related Links.

Debate Continues on the Farm Bill

capitolBoth the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a one week extension to the 2008 Farm Bill, despite warnings that President Bush would not sign an extension unless legislators demonstrated significant progress on the bill.  The conference committee continued to meet this week as legislators attempt to negotiate a deal that would send the Farm Bill to the president.  Legislators are deadlocked on how to handle tax provisions and funding offsets in the legislation.  The committee will meet again this week as they try to reach an agreement on the bill.

USDA Meat Inspectors Understaffed, According to Hearing Testimony

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is severely understaffed, stated a member of the food inspectors union in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the incident that led to the Hallmark/Westland Meat Company beef recall was not an isolated incident, but an effect of significant staffing problems at the agency.  The inspector testified that the agency has few field inspectors, but many managers.  As a result, field inspectors can have up to 24 plants to inspect in an enormous geographical region. Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Richard Raymond acknowledged in testimony that FSIS was understaffed in the past year.  He argued that the agency hired additional field inspectors this year and cut the number of management level staff. For more information, please see Related Links.

USDA Launches Barter Initiative to Supply Food Assistance Programs

Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer announced last week that USDA commodity donations will exceed $100 million through a swap of raw commodities for finished products.  Under the “Stocks for Food” program, producers forfeit their commodities in favor of the USDA forgiving their market assistance loans.  Bartering the commodities eliminates storage costs for the government.  The barter items are then distributed to a variety of domestic and international federal food aid programs, including the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.

State Legislative Update

The Illinois Senate passed legislation this week that would ban the use of trans fats in state schools.  The legislation, which received significant coverage from Illinois newspapers, would ban foods containing trans fats starting in 2009.  The legislation now moves onto the state House of Representatives.

Two bills failed to escape the end of the 2008 legislative session in Colorado.  The bills, Senate Bill 43 and Senate Bill 173 were never reported out of committee.  SB 43 would have required school districts to adopt nutrition standards for all foods sold outside of the reimbursable school meal program.  The legislation would have also created a program that would distribute grants to school districts to implement the standards.  SB 173 would have created a healthy schools grant program.  The program would have awarded grants to school districts that meet certain nutrition and physical activity standards.  The Colorado legislature did send one school nutrition related bill to the governor.  The legislation, SB 129, sets strict beverage standards for all beverages sold outside of the National School Lunch Program.  It is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

Coming Soon! Webinar on High-fructose Corn Syrup and School Wellness

In an effort to bring clarity to a nutrition topic that is the source of a lot of confusion, School Nutrition Association (SNA) and the School Nutrition Foundation (SNF) in partnership with the International Food Information Council (IFIC) will be offering a free webinar on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - High-fructose Corn Syrup and School Wellness: Science-Based Facts for Healthful School Nutrition Operations.

This web-based seminar (“webinar”) aims to clarify the issues surrounding HFCS by presenting the consumer, nutrition, and food science perspectives. School nutrition professionals will have the opportunity to learn about the broader context of HFCS as a consumer issue, followed by the detailed, real-life context of dealing with this topic in the school nutrition setting. Nutrition and food science experts will provide data-driven facts to correct misunderstandings about HFCS. The webinar will include messaging opportunities and strategies for communicating scientifically accurate information to policymakers, parents, and others with whom school nutrition professionals interact. For more information, please visit Related Links.

Michigan Senators Encourage USDA to Buy Bonus Tart Cherries

cherries2Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow (D) and Carl Levin (D), along with a bipartisan group of colleagues, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer last week asking that the USDA complete the purchase of 8.1 million tart cherries for the bonus commodities program.  In January 2008, USDA announced that it would purchase tart cherries this year.  To date, USDA has only purchased 5.5 million cherries from Michigan growers.  The purchased cherries will go towards federal food assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.

School Breakfast in the News

City council members in Baltimore, Md. are considering banning restaurants and commercial establishments from serving students after 7:30 am on weekdays.  Establishments that violate the ban would receive a $500 fine.  The measure is expected to decrease truancy among Baltimore City students, as well as increase participation in the city’s universal free breakfast program.

In another article, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) argued that the best way to defeat childhood hunger is to provide students with universal breakfast.  When visiting a Newark, N.J. school participating in a universal breakfast program, NYCCAH executive director Joel Berg noted that many of the students ate school breakfast because breakfast was served to everyone for free, not just eligible students. He argues that there is a stigma among students who participate in traditional school breakfast programs, therefore causing a decrease in participation.

In Maine, an op-ed piece by SNA member Helen Rankin was published in the Morning Sentinel commending the actions of the Maine legislature in advancing a bill that will increase access to school breakfast for more children in Maine. In the op-ed, Rankin also announces her candidacy for the Maine House of Representatives in District 97. See Related Links to access all the article mentioned above.

Nominees Sought for 2009 Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF) has opened the nomination process for the 2009 Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition.  Nominations are being accepted from April 1 through November 15, 2008. This prestigious award is presented each March to an individual who has contributed in an exemplary way through their lifetime achievements toward helping the world's poorest children to receive adequate nutrition, to thrive, and to reach their full potential.

Senator George McGovern first awarded the Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award to Gene White in 2004 at the inaugural A Possible Dream Gala in Washington, DC.  Other past recipients of the award include Senator George McGovern, Senator Bob Dole, Dr. Josephine Martin, Catherine Bertini and Edward Cooney.  The 2009 award will be presented at the Foundation’s 6th Annual A Possible Dream Gala to be held on Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

The award nomination procedures document is available below.  If you have questions or need assistance obtaining the form, contact the Global Child Nutrition Foundation at gcnf@schoolnutrition.org. For additional information, please see Related Links.

 

 

SNA Legislative Action Center

Legislative Toolkit

PR Toolkit

State Policy Index

State and Federal Legislation

State legislation can now be accessed on the Internet through Netscan. Use Username: schoolnutrition and Password: sna

Click State Legislation Instructions for steps to access state legislation through the service. Legislatures currently in session include:  Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin, and District of Columbia.

2007 - 2008 Public Policy and Legislative Committee Contacts

Craig Weidel

PPL Committee Chair

clweidel@mpsaz.org

Cindy Brooks

Northeast Region

CBrooks@seymourschools.org

Sara Gasiorowski

Mideast Region

Sara.Gasiorowski@wayne.k12.in.us

Annette Bomar Hopgood

Southeast Region

awhopgood@bellsouth.net

Cindy Hormel

Midwest Region

chormel@liberty.k12.mo.us

Melanie Konarik

Southwest Region

melaniek@springisd.org  

Lyman Graham,

West Region

lyman.graham@carlsbad.k12.nm.us

Lincoln Pierce

Northwest Region

lpierce@bethelsd.org

School Nutrition Association

Child Nutrition and Policy Center

epeterson@schoolnutrition.org 

 


 
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