The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was one of 16 organizations that met today with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Concannon, and “Let’s Move!” Executive Director Sam Kass to discuss problems implementing new regulations for school meals stipulated by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFK) and methods for improving child nutrition. Lucy Gettman, NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs, represented NSBA to call for recognition of the impact of the legislation on school district budgets and operations.
Gettman thanked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for “including school district governance in this conversation and for taking a leadership role in convening this group of stakeholders, many of whom have never been convened as a group before. Hopefully, this will be the first of several conversations.”
School boards and administrators have struggled to implement HHFK’s provisions, which require districts to serve school meals meeting strict nutritional and portion guidelines that many children find less filling and less palatable. School districts are reporting more food waste and lower rates of participation in school meal programs, and must cover unfunded cost increases somehow, usually through staff and program reductions.
In addition to school meal requirements, the law also has provisions for competitive foods that went into effect July 1, 2014. Forthcoming requirements include training and education standards for school food service personnel, and expanded requirements for local school wellness policies, further affecting districts’ operations and bottom lines.
Gettman urges policy makers, “Be mindful of the cumulative effect of these requirements across school systems that are also implementing Common Core State Standards, Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers, trying to administer assessments, trying to get a highly-effective teacher in every classroom, and make sure that ‘the wheels of the bus go ‘round and ‘round.’ We have to work together to make sure that it all fits together and works together, and that the child nutrition reauthorization isn’t having an impact on the rest of the educational system that isn’t supported financially and that doesn’t acknowledge local authority and control.”
Representatives from the following organizations were in attendance:
• Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
• Alliance for a Healthier Generation
• American Academy of Pediatrics
• American Heart Association
• Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
• Center for Science in the Public Interest
• Food Research & Action Center
• Mission: Readiness
• National Education Association
• National Food Service Management Institute
• National Parent Teacher Organization
• National School Boards Association
• Pew Charitable Trusts
• Public Health Institute
• School Nutrition Association
• United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association