Articles in the Nutrition category

USDA school nutrition regs add major costs for food services

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rules for nutrition standards for the school lunch and breakfast programs still fail to provide adequate funding for schools, NSBA says.

The USDA estimates that the new rules will cost schools an additional $3.2 billion to implement, a more than 50 percent decrease from its initial $6.7 billion estimate. However, NSBA is concerned that the new estimate is based on faulty accounting.

“Much of the reduction is derived by delaying implementation of some of the costliest standards, including changes to the School Breakfast Program, whole grain requirements, and sodium targets,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant in a written statement.  “Even so, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that less than half of the $3.2 billion cost will be covered by the performance-based reimbursement rate increase of 6 cents per lunch.”

The new standards, part of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, require schools to offer more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lower-fat meat and protein options and restrict foods that are high in sodium, fat, or sugar.

NSBA supports community-led moves to bring more nutritious and locally grown foods to school cafeterias and has highlighted many examples of schools that have done so through its conferences, publications, and awards programs.

The increased costs from a federal mandate will only add to schools’ and communities’ budget problems, though, Bryant added.

“By splitting the difference, a 35-cent increase per lunch for a family with two children adds up to $125.00 in the first year alone,” she said, citing USDA estimates that show 1.6 million school-age children come from households with incomes just higher than the above eligibility for free or reduced-price meals, which is a household income of 185 to 200 percent of poverty level or $43,500 to $44,700 for a family of four.  “The few dollars a week more a family would have to pay could price those meals out of reach,” Bryant said.

The USDA reported that it received an “unprecedented” 132,000 public comments on the proposed standards. First Lady Michelle Obama promoted the changes as part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign to help students and families eat healthier meals and exercise.

NSBA has continuously advocated for more funding to support the new requirements, noting that the additional costs come at a time when schools are being forced to lay off teachers and other staff and cut programs. Last year NSBA supported report language passed by the House as part of the agriculture appropriations bill that directed the USDA to propose new rules that do not create unfunded mandates for school districts.

The USDA also plans to issue new rules for foods sold in vending machines, bake sales, and other venues.

“Not only are these activities outside the legitimate scope of federal government regulation, they provide much needed funds for school athletics, field trips and other programs that are in jeopardy given the current budget crisis for schools,” said Bryant.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 31st, 2012|Categories: Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity|

Senate amendment would block costly rules on school meals

The U.S. Senate has approved an amendment to an agriculture appropriations bill that will protect the flexibility of school districts in selecting the vegetables served in school lunch and breakfast programs.

NSBA supported the amendment, co-authored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), that blocks the use of 2012 funding to implement “highly prescriptive” requirements on the use of vegetables in school meals, said Lucy Gettman, NSBA’s director of federal programs.

The proposed rules would have limited the servings of some starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes, lima beans, and corn, to one cup per student per week, and banned these vegetables from school breakfasts.

The rules also threatened to increase school district costs for providing meals, and in a letter supporting the Collins-Udall amendment, NSBA expressed concern to senators about the budget impact to local school districts.

“The financial and operational impact on local school districts could be immense at a time when they already are slashing their budgets in response to eroding resources,” NSBA stated. “The proposed rule could therefore force districts to curtail more education programming and take more teachers out of the classroom to pay for it. School district flexibility and authority are needed to assure that meal options are healthy, nutritious, responsive to the needs and preferences of local communities, and are cost-effective.”

NSBA’s letter of support was entered in to the Congressional Record after Sen. Collins mentioned it on the Senate floor, Gettman said.

“NSBA strongly supported the efforts of Sens. Collins, Udall, and others to ensure that school districts retain the flexibility to provide nutritious meals to students,” she said, adding that NSBA would continue to monitor the legislation as it works its way through the Senate. 

Del Stover|October 21st, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Nutrition, School Boards|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA releases family engagement resource

A new document by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) School Health Programs, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to cultivate the relationship between schools and families, with an eye toward nurturing healthy students and a healthy school environment.

Families as Partners: Fostering Family Engagement for Healthy and Successful Students, provides an overview of this critical component of student and school success and offers guidance, strategies, and resources for developing and implementing effective family engagement policies and practices.

According to the document, family engagement in schools has been shown to reduce risky behaviors and improve academic achievement and attitudes about school among students.

The publication also suggests that building connections around school and children’s health issues not only serves as a less intimidating entry point for families, but can reap multiple benefits.

“Family engagement is important to a positive school climate, as well as, to the development of promising school health policies and practices that benefit all students and prepare them for a healthy and successful future,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director.

It should be noted that families come in all shapes and sizes, and the use of the word family is an all-inclusive generic term. Regardless of their makeup, according to the document, “families and school staff share the responsibility to counter unhealthy influences and help students lead healthy, productive lives.”

And coordinated school health—an eight-step model that the CDC developed— is a sensible way to address risky behaviors among students. Not surprisingly, one of the key components in the CDC coordinated school health framework is family involvement.

Families as Partners highlights a handful of well-regarded strategies to bolster family involvement, including the model developed by noted Johns Hopkins University sociology professor Joyce L. Epstein.

Among the steps a district should take is a review of their own policies on family involvement. Chances are districts can build on their existing efforts to address family engagement in health, nutrition, and safety.

In tandem with an internal review, is an external strategy to bring families into the fold, whether it’s through community meetings, surveys, standing committees, or other opportunities where two-way dialogue can occur.

Besides the Families as Partners document, more smart tips and best practices, including a fact sheet on health and learning, sample family engagement policies, and sample surveys to engage families, can be found on the new family engagement webpage on NSBA’s website.



Naomi Dillon|September 28th, 2011|Categories: Nutrition, School Climate, Student Achievement, Wellness|Tags: , |

Urban board members meet around advocacy issues

Members of the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) gathered in Memphis this week to hone their skills in advocating for urban schools and their students.

CUBE’s annual issues seminar included workshops on National Common Core Standards, sessions on best practices in the Memphis and Nashville school districts, and updates on the current top federal advocacy issues.

“We are working well with NSBA and our state associate to put the faces of our children in the forefront,” said Sandra Jensen, CUBE chair and president of the board of the Omaha Public Schools.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant outlined the successes that the organization has had recently with Congress and with getting regulatory relief from No Child Left Behind for school districts. “We’ve had victories, and victories feel good in this environment,” she said.

One of those victories was getting language added to the Child Nutrition Act, passed in the FY 2012 agriculture appropriations bill in June. NSBA warned that some of the demands of the act could cost school districts millions of dollars. “We were at the table advocating reasonableness,” Bryant said.

Another victory: NSBA, along with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), asked Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for relief for school districts facing sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Duncan has indicated that he would consider this.

Both organizations had solicited support for a petition to remove the regulatory and reporting requirements of NCLB. “That’s the kind of power you have,” Bryant told attendees. “You are so articulate. You speak passionately about kids.”

Reginald Felton, NSBA’s director of Federal Relations, Advocacy, and Issues Management, gave attendees an overview of the current federal advocacy picture in Washington, D.C.

“Most of that stimulus money is gone,” said Felton. “It was important to get it, but we are approaching a funding cliff – you can’t sustain it.”

Congress’ intent is to cut money, and the education community will be affected. NSBA is concerned about the shift from formula-based funding to competitive grants, said Felton.

Felton also referenced the Child Nutrition Bill, saying that NSBA’s position was based on whether it was appropriate for federal government to create unfunded mandates instead of leaving those decisions to state and local officials. “It’s not about us wanting our kids to be healthy,” he said.

Attendees also heard about what they can and cannot do with student assignment plans after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Seattle and Louisville, Ky., decisions in 2007.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco Negron and Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association, told CUBE members about the implications for other districts of the two cases.

Racial balancing is “no longer permissible,” said Negron. “To the extent that you want to do student assignment, the only legally permissible reason is academic.”

Just using student assignment to avoid racial isolation will no longer stand up in the Supreme Court, said Worona.

“We are living in a post integration society,” said Negron. “Get rid of those words. You shouldn’t even think in those terms.”

For more information about CUBE, go to School Board Journal will focus on how school board members can become better advocates in its September issue at

Kathleen Vail|June 25th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Nutrition, School Law, Urban Schools|

House approves funding bill with child nutrition report

NSBA is pleased that the House of Representatives has passed HR 2112, the FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill, with the committee’s report language on child nutrition intact.  Although the report language is non-binding, NSBA’s legislative advocacy team feels it sends a powerful message regarding congressional intent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA is charged with writing regulations for the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, which was approved late last year.

The report language states: “New Nutrition Requirements for the School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.-The Committee notes that FNS [Food Nutrition Services] has responded to the actions required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, P.L. 111-296. The Committee urges restraint and practical timelines for implementing new national nutrition standards in the school breakfast and lunch programs. As many of the representatives in states and local school districts have cautioned, an overly aggressive implementation schedule and unrealistic demands on changes in nutrient content can lead to burdensome costs, estimated to be about $7 billion over 5 years. Therefore, the Committee directs FNS to issue a new proposed rule that would not require an increase in the cost of providing school meals.”

Read more about school nutrition issues at:

Joetta Sack-Min|June 17th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Food Service, Nutrition, Obesity, Wellness|

Unfunded mandates in Child Nutrition Act could be costly, says NSBA

The U.S. House of Representatives began debate on its agriculture appropriations bill yesterday. NSBA is supporting report language issued by the appropriations committee that directs the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to propose new rules that do not create unfunded mandates for school districts.

Without the needed funding, the law’s goals of proving more nutritious foods to all schoolchildren — particularly those who don’t get a good meal at home — will be just a “hollow promise,” NSBA wrote in a June 14 letter to the House.

One of NSBA’s main complaints about the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization last year was the lack of federal funding to meet the new requirements for more nutritious foods. While there was an increase for the costs of school lunches, that only covered a portion of the increased costs — about six cents per meal.

The USDA recently estimated that the federal government’s contribution for the free and reduced-price lunch program will come eight cents short of the increased cost (about 14 cents) of a more nutritious meal.

NSBA’s advocacy department is also concerned that rising food costs will exacerbate the problem. Currently, if a school district has 5,000 students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, that’s $400 a day in extra expenses. Over the course of a typical 180-day school year, that’s $72,000 — more than an average teacher’s salary.

The letter states, “School districts have already closed buildings, terminated programs, and laid off teachers due to eroding local, state, and federal resources. Every dollar in unfunded mandates in the child nutrition reauthorization must come from somewhere else in the educational system and result in more layoffs, larger class sizes, narrowing of the curriculum, elimination of after-school programs, and cuts to other program areas, including school food services.” 

Read the letter here.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 15th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Nutrition|

Child nutrition remains a hot legislative topic

The Child Nutrition Act reauthorization passed in December. So why was it a hot topic at a session on legislative priorities at the Federal Relations Network conference?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is proposing regulations that could dramatically impact the implementation of the new law, and school leaders need to let their Congressional representatives know the issues they will be facing if some of the regulations do not blunt the impact of the law.

NSBA and several other groups opposed the passage of the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” because it created many vague mandates with minimal or no funding increases. However, the bill was pushed by First Lady Michelle Obama and others who want to help children living in poverty have access to healthier foods.

“Sometimes what looks good on paper doesn’t work on the ground,” noted NSBA legislative analyst Katherine Shek.

Some of the more problematic provisions include new “voluntary” meal standards that will set new nutritional standards for all school meals, including foods sold in vending machines and during fundraisers; plus more reporting, training, and certification requirements.

NSBA is also concerned about the indirect costs for program operations, maintaining buildings and equipment, and the possibility of increased administrative salaries due to the new requirements.

One school board member said her small, rural district only paid its food service director $11 an hour — not enough to attract someone who has a college education or higher career prospects.

The new law also will regulate the amount charged for unsubsidized cafeteria meals. The federal government will require school districts to raise any “artificially low” prices or cover the difference with non-federal funds.

“Sometimes you might want to make [school lunches] affordable for other kids who might be low income but not qualify for free and reduced-price lunches,” said Shek.

Overall, NSBA wants school boards to share their stories of successful programs with Congress. “Improving health and wellness of kids really is a local effort.”

The deadline to comment on the proposed regulations is April 13. For more information, go to

Joetta Sack-Min|February 7th, 2011|Categories: Educational Legislation, Food Service, FRN Conference 2011, Governance, Nutrition, Obesity, School Board News, School Boards, Student Achievement, Wellness|

USDA issues draft regulations on school nutrition

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its draft regulations for the Child Nutrition Act this week. After many concerns about the costs and requirements of the new law, NSBA’s advocacy department is carefully reading the proposal and will issue a response in coming weeks.

The proposed regulations require schools to serve more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. One of the biggest changes, though, is the limit on sodium content—meals would have to have at most only half of what is currently allowed. Those guidelines are based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine.

The USDA provided a sample before-and after school lunch menu to show the proposed changes in the works. For Monday through Wednesday, the main entrees would change from a bean and cheese burrito, pizza sticks, and hot dog, all served with sides such as applesauce, canned pears, and celery and carrot sticks with ranch dressing, to a submarine sandwich on wheat bread, whole wheat spaghetti with meat sauce, and chef salad, accompanied by items like jicama, green pepper strips, and kiwi slices.

NSBA had many concerns, particularly related to the lack of full funding and implementation of the new law. More information about the law is available on the school nutrition resource page.

The proposed regulations are available in the Jan. 13 Federal Register. School officials and the public may also give responses and recommendations to the USDA. All responses are due by April 13.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 14th, 2011|Categories: Announcements, Nutrition, School Board News|

Report: More children receiving school breakfast, but numbers still lag

Though more low-income children than ever are benefitting from school meals, breakfast participation continues to lag behind its midday counterpart, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger organization.

On Thursday, FRAC released its an annual School Breakfast Scorecard, which analyzes student participation in the first meal of the day and found that, although the number of children who ate breakfast increased by 663,000 to 9.4 million students nationally in 2009-2010–the largest single jump since FRAC began tracking the data in 1991–it was still far less than the nearly 20 million low-income students who receive lunch every day.

To be exact, only 47 percent of students who took advantage of free and reduced priced lunches also took advantage of the schools’ breakfast offerings. FRAC determined that if for every 100 students who ate lunch, 60 ate breakfast, 2.5 million more children would have started the day off right and states would have recouped an additional $611 million in federal child nutrition funding. Participation rates ranged from a high of nearly 61 percent in New Mexico to Utah’s dismal 34 percent.

One of the most promising strategies to emerge in recent years to address the disparity is universal breakfast–the practice of providing a free meal to every student regardless of income level. Indeed, each of 10 districts with the highest participation levels profiled in a separate analysis, School Breakfast in America’s Big Cities, report employ universal breakfast programs.

To increase breakfast participation, FRAC recommends school districts and states serve breakfast in the classroom, offer grab-and-go options, streamline the free and reduced meal application process, and conduct frequent campaigns and outreach.

Naomi Dillon|January 13th, 2011|Categories: Food Service, Nutrition, School Board News, Wellness|

President Obama signs child nutrition reauthorization

President Obama signed the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization on Dec. 13, at a Washington elementary school flanked by students, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and First Lady Michelle Obama, who has advocated for healthier school meals.

The new law, however, could be problematic for school districts because the amount of new federal funding, estimated at about 6 cents per meal, will not cover the estimated 11 to 25 cent cost to comply with the new standards, and does not increase the allotment for the school breakfast program at all, according to NSBA. Further, the bill requires new training for school cafeteria workers and other requirements that could be problematic for school districts to implement. (read a more detailed summary of NSBA’s concerns, here).

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant has issued this statement:

“NSBA applauds President Obama’s recognition that schools are a vital partner in child nutrition; however, it is disappointing that the child nutrition act does not provide adequate funding for local school districts to comply with the new requirements. This new law will challenge schools’ ability to provide school nutrition by adding a new funding burden for schools at a time when there are critical budget shortfalls.  It is imperative that the Obama administration work closely with school district representatives to implement the new child nutrition regulations to mitigate the negative consequences for students and schools.”

NSBA’s advocacy team plans to work with the Secretary of Agriculture to help develop regulations for the new law.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 13th, 2010|Categories: Food Service, Nutrition, School Board News, Wellness|
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