The National School Boards Association (NSBA) supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to delay or waive implementation of some of the more difficult provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. However, NSBA considers USDA’s School Strike Force draft proposal to provide targeted assistance to a limited number of school food authorities insufficient to fully address the difficulties inherent in the implementation of the law.
In a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, NSBA made recommendations to the Strike Force proposal including clarification regarding where in school districts the proposal applies, whether there is a the net gain in resources available, plus the need to defer to local school district governance practices.
NSBA has frequently observed that school meals are provided in the larger context of school district operations that are frequently ignored. In order to restore an accurate perception and understanding of the impact of school meal policy from USDA, the focus on SFAs must be transparent and decisions made in a manner consistent with school district operational procedures already in place.
NSBA has spoken out previously through formal comments; implementation of USDA rules on school meals must acknowledge the cumulative impact of multiple regulatory actions on school districts. Additionally, implementation must reverse policies that redirect state and local funding to the SFA from elsewhere in the district, require school districts to increase prices to students and their families, result in the elimination of staff and services in the SFA or the district as a whole, or regulate school district activity beyond the SFA.
“The law must remain cost neutral to school districts; either by increasing federal funds available to cover increased costs or by regulating in such a way that compliance is possible within current reimbursement rates, including waivers or other temporary measures to allow schools to comply,” said the National School Boards Association’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel in the letter.