Articles tagged with USDA

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: , , |

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: , |

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 secures time to assess school district impact of new regulations for food sold in schools

Following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) release of their new Interim Final Rule on Nutrition Standards for All Foods Sold in School, the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel issued this statement:

“NSBA praises USDA’s decision to follow NSBA’s recommendation to issue an Interim Final Rule rather than a Final Rule. NSBA will carefully be reviewing the Interim Final Rule for financial and operational impact on school districts.

“America’s school boards are deeply committed to fostering a healthy and positive learning environment for children to achieve their full potential. Most school districts have already taken meaningful steps to improve the quality of foods available from vending machines, a la carte lines, and other non-National School Lunch Program sources.

“Yet, we must acknowledge the budget and labor constraints that school districts already face in light of sequestration and the ongoing fiscal crisis for our schools, communities, and states. At a time when education is acknowledged as a priority for America’s success and competitiveness, it is imperative that federal policy—including implementation of the child nutrition regulations—assures that educational systems are supported, not undermined by unfunded mandates or under-resourced requirements. School nutrition programs simply cannot be successful unless the school districts providing them have sufficient resources and local authority to administer them effectively.

“NSBA expressed concerns about the draft Rule during the public comment period and submitted a letter on April 9, 2013 to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. NSBA’s recommendations encouraged an Interim Final Rule be developed to review the financial and operational impact and unanticipated consequences of the new standards to reflect a better understanding of on-the-ground impact before a Final Rule is issued.

“NSBA will provide additional feedback to the USDA to urge that this and all other provisions of the reauthorization will not challenge America’s schools with a new funding burden at a time when there are critical budget shortfalls.”
- See more at: http://www.nsba.org/Newsroom/Press-Releases/NSBA-Secures-Time-to-Assess-Impact-of-New-Regulations-on-Local-School-Districts.html#sthash.1O3PUyPh.dpuf

Alexis Rice|June 28th, 2013|Categories: Federal Programs, Food Service, Nutrition, Wellness|Tags: , , , |

New federal nutrition rules caused a ‘buzz’

So many parents have complained that school meal portions are too meager—and that their children are hungry and tired by the end of the school day—that Congress is beginning to pay attention.

That’s one of several developments that are keeping policymakers busy more than two years after passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, said Lucy Gettman, NSBA’s director of federal programs.

Speaking at a Saturday briefing to NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) in Washington, D.C., Gettman told urban education leaders that the new federal rules on school meals that went into effect this year caused “quite a buzz.”

Although some expected the biggest complaint would center on inadequate financial support for new and costly mandates, Gettman said the most notable criticism has focused on the size of federally reimbursable school meals as mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Designed as a tool to combat the nation’s childhood obesity problem, the strict calorie limits on meals has prompted tens of thousands of letters and phone calls to members of Congress.

“Parents, students, and other citizens were giving their members of Congress an earful,” Gettman said, noting that one online music video mocking the meal rules has gotten more than 1 million viewers.

The protests prompted the House Committee on Education and Workforce to send a letter asking the U.S. Government Accounting Office to look into the impact of the new law and the USDA rules.

In the letter were a “pretty thorough list of questions, and I think it will really be helpful to Congress once they get a report back,” Gettman said. “It can guide Congress on future policy.”

The public outcry already has prompted the USDA to grant schools some relief in meeting federal guidelines, she added, “but the relief is only temporary” as that the rules were waived only for the rest of this school year.

Another issue still unresolved is what federal standards will exist for “competitive foods”—food sold in vending machines or at concession stands at school athletic events, Gettman said. Those rules—which USDA has yet to release in draft form—could affect the revenue that schools use to support athletic, food-service, and other programs.

School policymakers also are waiting for draft rules concerning the training and certification of food-service personnel.

USDA has indicated it’s going to do “everything in its power so that these standards won’t be costly,” Gettman said. “But the proof is in the pudding.”

Del Stover|January 27th, 2013|Categories: CUBE, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership Conference 2013, Legislative advocacy, Nutrition, Obesity, Urban Schools|Tags: , , , |

New USDA regulations present challenges to urban districts

Some challenges confront urban school districts seeking to comply with the new, more healthy oriented regulations mandated for school meals by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

It turns out that some kids don’t like the healthier cafeteria fare—and won’t eat it. Parents complain that strict, new calorie portions are too stingy for high school students—and their children are going hungry during the day.

Finally, school food-service directors are warning that cooking healthier meals is more costly than the additional 6 cents that USDA has promised to help comply with its new mandates.

Yet school districts are finding ways to cope, a panel of school board members and school food-service experts told urban leaders attending a Saturday workshop for NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE).

The session was an Early Bird offering of NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) Annual Conference, which starts today in Washington, D.C.

Convincing students to eat the new daily portions of fruits and vegetables mandated for federally reimbursed school meals—as well as other healthier fare—requires a calculated redesign of school recipes and changes in food preparation, panelists said.

Virginia’s Hampton City Schools are working with local restaurant chefs to learn new preparation techniques and relying on student taste-testings to find recipes that will win over students, said school board member Monica Smith.

The district also is seeking to change student attitudes by educating them about nutrition, as well as revamping cafeterias with smaller serving lines and a more aesthetic, restaurant-oriented appearance that makes the school meal experience more appealing, she said.

Improving menus and cutting operational costs will require more professional development—and not just for managers and cooks, added Amy Virus, assistant food-services director for the Philadelphia Public Schools. Under new USDA regulations, school meals are not federally reimbursable if students don’t have the mandatory fruit and vegetable servings on their food trays—and the cafeteria staff has to stay atop of student choices.

“It’s a huge change for us,” she said. “For our cashiers, for our line staff … so we’ve really focused on training, talking about new meal patterns.”

The USDA is reconsidering the controversial calorie counts it imposed on school meals, but the cost issue remains a challenge to be overcome, panelists say. Some school districts are complaining the price of healthier foods is proving greater than the additional financial support provided by USDA.

A drop in participation can exacerbate the challenges created by rising costs, a phenomenon reported by some school lunch programs. But, in Hampton, Smith said, food-service personnel are looking for ways to cut costs—and have managed to increase in participation as cafeterias fine-tune their healthier fare to meet student tastes.

So healthier school meals aren’t necessarily a negative—simply a new challenge that requires new practices, panelists said. But school boards can make a big difference in whether these challenges ultimately are met.

Boards need to set the priority, put district wellness programs in place, and hold food-service personnel accountable, Smith said. But also “listen to the trained staff and give them the flexibility to do the job … let them be creative [while] we show our support.”

Del Stover|January 27th, 2013|Categories: CUBE, Food Service, FRN Conference 2013, Leadership Conference 2013, Legislative advocacy, Urban Schools|Tags: , , |

USDA seeks to limit potatoes presence in school meals

baked_potatoOnce a staple of Americans’ meat-and-potato diets, the lowly spud may soon be banned from school cafeterias. But not without a fight.

A recently proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would eliminate white potatoes from federally subsidized school breakfasts and limit their serving at lunch has set off another round of protests about the federal government’s school nutrition regulations.

The USDA proposal would limit starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans, to a total of one cup per week for federally subsidized school lunches.

The potato industry is now promoting its product as a “true gateway vegetable” that could lead kids to broccoli, according to the Wall Street Journal.

I’m not convinced about that, but Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, which is one of the leading states producing potatoes, noted at a hearing that the spud contains more nutrients than iceberg lettuce, which hasn’t been banned.

As the potato industry mobilizes its lobbyists, some school nutritionists are also defending the spud. The Gooding school district in Idaho, which won a USDA award for schools that feed children healthier meals and promote physical activity, will lose its twice-a-week potato bar, according to the Wall Street Journal.
(more…)

Naomi Dillon|May 23rd, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation, Wellness|Tags: , |

Food fuels the mind, body and debate on nutritional standards

Photo courtesy Stockvault

Photo courtesy Stockvault

It may be the most important school lunch served this year, and it’s not even going to schools: It’s going to Congress. One day next week, some lawmakers and their staff will dine on chicken fajitas, sliced ham, and green beans. It’s part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to show it has improved the nutrition of school lunch programs, and to ask Congress to provide more resources to continue this improvement.

It may be a tough sell, even though everyone knows — or should know — that children cannot learn as well when they are hungry or suffer from poor nutrition.

“This is part of the education day,” Katie Wilson, then-president of the School Nutrition Association, told me in an interview last year. “We know that a child who is well-nourished learns better. So why we continue to fight this battle is really frustrating.”

Why the continued fight? The answer, of course, is money. Nutritious food costs money, and with the nation in a recession, even strong school lunch supporters say Congress isn’t expected to increase funding this year. (Even though President Obama has proposed an additional $1 billion for child nutrition programs, including school lunches, in his 2010 budget.)

The lunch program’s public relations effort was hurt last week by a USA Today  investigation showing that meat not fit for fast-food restaurants has been making its way into schools. Now senators are asking for a stricter testing program for ground beef.
(more…)

Naomi Dillon|December 15th, 2009|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance|Tags: , , , |
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