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Articles in the Food Service category

The “unintended consequences” of federal school meal regulations

Check out the National School Boards Association’s Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel’s reflecting on the real impact and the challenges that public schools still face on implementing federal school meal regulations in a commentary published by The Huffington Post:

When did a politically driven view of school nutrition begin to overtake visible realities? Trays of uneaten cafeteria food thrown in the trash. Hungry kids. Struggling school food-service programs. Peel back the good intentions and the celebrity-fueled support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and you’ll see the practical realities many school districts and students face. Legislation enacted without a practical understanding of its consequences truly fails America’s public schoolchildren.

That’s why the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address the unintended consequences of the Act.

The real story of school districts trying to put nutrition regulation into practice has been drowned out by the political noise surrounding the issue. Some have suggested that those who want to grant schools much-needed relief have partisan motivations. Others make the specious claim that local school officials do not want to do the work of raising nutrition standards.

It is time to set the record straight: School districts are committed to providing healthy meals to students, and NSBA has actively and long supported the federal school nutrition program.

At the time of the law’s passage in 2010, however, NSBA expressed concerns about the significantly higher costs likely to be associated with the new mandates. The stricter nutritional standards — as well as other new regulations issued by USDA — are cost-prohibitive for many already cash-strapped school districts.

It’s hard to imagine the law’s vocal supporters intended that it would result in student boycotts of school lunches, higher meal prices, food wasted or discarded, and school districts scrambling to identify funds to comply with unfunded regulations. Political outrage does not match up with “on-the-ground” reality: Declining participation in the meal programs means that many students are underserved, while others are simply going hungry.

The realities are clear to ordinary Americans in local communities: Unfunded mandates in the law are placing an untenable burden on America’s public school districts and America’s public schoolchildren. Even food outside the school meal program — including snacks in vending machines or cupcakes sold at school fundraisers — must adhere to costly new nutrition standards.

For many students, school lunch is their only meal of the day. We owe it to children, parents and communities to think through the practical aspects of how laws are implemented. Drawing attention to these issues is not part of a campaign by school districts to avoid complying with the law. Overly rigid and unrealistic federal mandates undermine the ability of school districts to do what the law intends: prepare and serve nutritious food that enables America’s public schoolchildren to grow, learn and thrive.

It is incumbent upon us to apply reason to the debate. This is why NSBA supports temporary waivers and other reasonable measures to restore local flexibility and authority to school districts struggling to comply with the rigid and unrealistic provisions of the law.

NSBA also applauds the USDA’s decisions to delay or waive implementation of some of the law’s more onerous provisions, and the recent effort by Secretary Vilsack to initiate an honest exchange of opinions among various national organizations with an interest in this key policy issue. This issue calls for thoughtful deliberation and compromise, not shrill political rhetoric.

Alexis Rice|July 30th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Nutrition|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA discusses school lunch concerns with USDA

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

Margaret Suslick|July 10th, 2014|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service|Tags: , , , , , , , |

NSBA discusses board leadership on Education Talk Radio

Anne M. Byrne, President of the National School Boards Association and member of the school board for New York’sBryne-3-13-2014 Nanuet Union Free School District, spoke about her experience as a school leader on Education Talk Radio today. During the interview she also discussed the need for federal legislation to stave off overzealous regulations, the Common Core State Standards, and school nutrition. Listen to the interview with Education Talk Radio host Larry Jacobs.


Joetta Sack-Min|June 25th, 2014|Categories: Assessment, Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Uncategorized|Tags: , |

NSBA encourages U.S. House to support flexibility and regulatory relief for school meals

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is encouraging the U.S. House of Representatives to support for local school district flexibility and modest regulatory relief for school meal programs in the FY 2015 Appropriations for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

NSBA supports two important measures in the legislation that the House will consider on June 11, 2014:

• Appropriation of $25 million for school meal equipment grants, which will help schools prepare and serve healthier
meals, and improve food safety.
• NSBA also supports a provision requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a process by which a
State shall grant a temporary waiver from compliance with national nutrition standards.

Read the full letter NSBA sent to members of the House today.

Alexis Rice|June 10th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Legislative advocacy|Tags: , , |

House funding bill gives school relief from nutrition mandates

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) successfully supported language in the U.S. House of Reprepesentative’s fiscal year 2015 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to grant flexibility and relief from certain requirements for school meals and competitive foods standards.

The bill, approved by subcommittee this week, would require USDA to establish a waiver process for schools that cannot comply with national nutrition standards without incurring a net loss in the food operation. NSBA is supporting additional flexibility provisions when the bill is considered by the Appropriations Committee next week.

“Students need healthy meals and adequate nutrition to achieve their potential in school, and school board members are committed to ensuring all students are prepared to learn,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, school boards cannot ignore the higher costs and operational issues created by the rigid mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”

In a May 19 letter to the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, NSBA urges revisions to federal requirements for school meals and competitive foods, including:

  • Retaining the current requirement that 50 percent of grains offered for lunch and breakfast be whole grain rich rather than further increasing the requirement to 100 percent;
  • Retaining the July 1, 2014, Target 1 sodium levels, and suspend implementation of further reductions of sodium levels unless and until scientific research supports such reductions for children;
  • Eliminating the requirement that students must take a fruit or vegetable as part of a reimbursable breakfast and/or lunch, in order to reduce plate waste and program costs;
  • Allowing any food item permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as a competitive food, in order to eliminate unnecessarily complex and duplicative standards for food items sold in schools.

NSBA also is supporting the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, HR 3663, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. The legislation would provide options for school districts struggling to comply with some of the more problematic mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 20th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity|Tags: , , , , , |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

USDA oversteps authority with new school nutrition regulations, NSBA says

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to evaluate the financial impact the federal school nutrition law and proposed regulations will have on school districts and give waivers to school districts that prove the financial and regulatory burdens are insurmountable.

Having overstepped its regulatory authority, the USDA should also eliminate a proposed regulation that would subject all foods available in school—including those that are not sold on the school campus during the school day, such as treats brought from home for birthday parties–to meet the strict nutrition guidelines consistent with competitive food standards.

NSBA’s recommendations are part of comments to the USDA on its proposed regulations for the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires schools to serve healthier meals and severely restricts the sale of high-fat, high-calorie foods but does not reimburse school districts for the much higher costs they face.

NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel pointed out in the April 28 letter that school board members are deeply committed to fostering a healthy and positive learning environment for children to achieve their full potential, and NSBA has participated in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Active Schools campaign.

“It is therefore disappointing to see yet another set of requirements from the Department that extends federal overreach at the expense of local school districts and the children they serve,” Gentzel wrote in the letter.

New cumbersome and costly reporting and recordkeeping requirements threaten to further diminish school districts’ abilities to operate their food services departments on sound financial footing.

NSBA also urges the USDA to propose a separate rule on the marketing of foods and beverages.

The USDA has proposed a sweeping plan that would regulate the types of foods and beverages that can be marketed on school property, although NSBA notes that the federal law only allows the USDA to regulate the marketing of foods included in the National School Lunch Program and the federal school breakfast program.

“Congress has not given the [USDA] the authority to regulate the marketing of foods that are not part of those food service programs,” the letter states. Furthermore, NSBA does not believe that the law “permits the Department to restrict through regulation or otherwise how a school district interacts with its vendors and community sponsors through its advertising of various foods and beverages, and finds that the proposed definition of marketing offered by the Department is too sweeping and will result in unintended consequences for school districts and students.”

The USDA should also clarify, if the proposed food marketing rules are not deleted or changed, that those rules would not require school districts to breach existing contracts with their vendors, which could lead to litigation and liability, NSBA says.

Joetta Sack-Min|May 1st, 2014|Categories: Educational Finance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, School Boards, Wellness|Tags: , |

Author tells of immigrant children’s journey at Best Practices for School Leaders luncheon

Magna Awards 2014

Sonia Nazario, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Enrique’s Journey told the audience at the Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon Saturday about her own journey, and the journeys of undocumented and immigrant children.

Nazario chronicled her childhood as the daughter of two immigrants, whose father died when she was 13 and whose mother moved the family back to their native Argentina after his death.

She compared her determination – to do well in college and become a journalist against all odds – to the determination of the children in her book. Those children took perilous, heart-breaking trips thousands of miles from their homes in Central America north to the United States – to be reunited with the mothers who’d left them behind so they could find work and feed their families.

“One in four children in the U.S. is an immigrant or the child of immigrants,” she said. “Those children are in your classrooms and in your districts.”

Nazario suggested ways that schools could help immigrant children, especially the ones who have traveled alone to find their parents and may be scarred emotionally or physically from the journey. In addition to having depression and trauma issues, many have never been to school or only in school for a short time. “They don’t know how to hold a pencil or scissors,” she said.

Their parents may be illiterate, hold several jobs, or live in crowded conditions where the children can’t find quiet places to do their homework.

Newcomer schools, where students are taught bilingually and are eased into school during a transition period can help, she says. Also, these schools help parents acclimate and understand their roles in helping their students in schools.

More after-school programs for immigrant students and their parents would help, she says. “And pass the Dream Act,” which gives citizenship to children of undocumented parents, she said. “They didn’t break the law. They should have a pathway to legalization.”

Also at the luncheon, the 2014 Magna Award winning districts were honored. For more information about the Magna winners and the awards program to The Magna Awards are sponsored Sodexo.

Kathleen Vail|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Food Service, Immigrants, NSBA Annual Conference 2014, NSBA Publications, NSBA Recognition Programs|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA calls proposed food service rules “a direct federal intrusion” into local governance

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revise proposed rules for school breakfast and lunch programs, saying the regulations “represent direct federal intrusion into workforce policy, which is determined by school boards, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders at the local level.”

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, NSBA President Thomas J. Gentzel said that while NSBA “acknowledges and applauds” the agriculture department’s involvement of stakeholders, including NSBA, in drafting standards for supervisors and staff in school nutrition programs, NSBA wants to ensure that “educational systems are supported, not undermined, by unfunded mandates or under-resourced requirements.”

The proposed regulations represent further interpretation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was passed by Congress in 2010. Among the requirements would be for school nutrition program directors to have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, with a concentration in food and nutrition or related subjects, or a bachelor’s degree and a state-recognized certificate in food or nutrition or a related field. These qualifications would be required for all districts, regardless of size.

Commenting on the regulations, Gentzel wrote: “The standards indirectly disrupt market forces that impact availability and recruitment of qualified staff, and compensation practices for already cash-strapped districts.”

The proposed rules also require at least 15 hours of annual training for new and current nutrition directors, 12 hours of training for new and current managers, and eight hours of training for new and current staff. NSBA also asked that the department eliminate a rule requiring eight hours of training for food service workers within the first 30 days of their employment.

“Training should not be required until employees have completed their probationary period, or are otherwise considered permanent,” Gentzel said.

Alexis Rice|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Food Service, National Standards, Nutrition|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA applauds USDA action on school nutrition regulations

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is pleased with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recent decision to make permanent the temporary relief from a provision of the federal school lunch program that limited lean protein and whole grains at school meals.  However, NSBA is still urging USDA to make other regulatory changes to give school districts more flexibility in the operation of the program.

“We applaud USDA for listening to parents and school leaders who said these restrictions were unnecessary and not in the best interests of students’ health,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The program still needs additional changes to give school districts more flexibility to provide nutritious school meals and ensure that students won’t go hungry because of unreasonable limits on the amount of food schools may serve.”

A permanent provision on whole grains and lean protein was one of four changes requested in the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, which was introduced in December by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and is endorsed by NSBA.

“The USDA’s announcement comes after a tremendous amount of pressure from parents, school administrators, and Congress,” Noem said. “What they are offering is a step in the right direction and adopts some of the provisions offered in my bill to give relief. A more permanent legislative fix and even greater flexibility is needed, however, in order to give parents and school administrators the tools they need when planning our kids’ lunch programs.”

Among the other issues Noem’s bill addresses are flexibility for school districts struggling to comply with new standards for school breakfast; items sold outside the federal school meal program such as those in vending machines, fundraisers and school stores; and federally mandated prices for unsubsidized school meals.

Lawrence Hardy|January 6th, 2014|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Wellness|Tags: , , |
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