Federal Legislative News

MdSNA Federal Legislative News in Review

(click title above) ...as reported in the "Serving Spoon" by Mary Klatko, MdSNA Federal Legislative Chairperson

Revised Prototype Free and Reduced Price Application for SY 2017-18

The USDA released a policy memo on May 3, 2017, announcing their Revised Prototype Application for Free and Reduced Price Meals for SY 2017-2018. In SY 2016-2017 the USDA Office of Civil Rights received 1,700 of these applications in error, as they were actually intended for local officials who make eligibility determinations, and not complaints of discrimination. The applications were forwarded by USDA to the appropriate State and local agencies, and in an effort to make sure the applications go to the right place this year, minor design changes were made in the Prototype Application for Free and Reduced Price School Meals. FNS has added, to both the heading of Step 4 of the prototype application and Step 4 in the instructions, a field for program operators to include a mailing address where households may send completed applications. These headings are added to provide additional clarity on where to send the applications, and although inclusion of these elements on application forms developed by State agencies and LEAs is optional, it is encouraged. Attached to the memorandumare the application instructions, a Word version of the application, and a PDF version of the application. 

6.29.2017 Federal Register: APEC III, Improper Payments Study

The proposed APEC III study will provide FNS with the information needed to reduce improper payments in school meals programs. The study will survey a nationally representative sample of School Food Authorities (SFAs), a sample of schools within each SFA, and a random sample of students within each school that applied or were directly certified for free and reduced-price meals. The data will be used to develop national estimates of the annual error rates and erroneous payments for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program in school year 2017-18 and to identify strategies for reducing errors. Comments on this record collection can be sent to Desk Officer for Agriculture, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), [email protected] 

Senators Collins and Heitkamp Reintroduce “School Food Modernization Act”

On Thursday, June 21, 2017, Senator Collins reintroduced the “  School Food Modernization Act,” or S. 1402, on behalf of her and Senator Heitkamp. The bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to make loan guarantees and grants to finance certain improvement to school lunch facilities, train school foodservice professionals, and for other purposes. These improvements can include remodeling, purchasing durable equipment, and expanding the infrastructure of the school lunch program that will provide healthy meals. The loan guarantees and the equipment grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and up to the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture, though certain eligible entities will have priority. S. 1402 goes on to outline fees, funding, and Federal share breakdowns for these programs, as well as for the training and technical assistance for school food service personnel. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. 

"Nutrition Coordinators for Local Healthy Youth Act" Introduced

On Wednesday, June 20, 2017, Rep. Tim Ryan introduced H.R. 2967, or the “Nutrition Coordinators for Local Healthy Youth Act,” which was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill amended the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to establish a grant program to appoint nutrition coordinators to oversee local school nutrition policies in local education agencies. The Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, will select local education agencies to receive the grants, based on the applications that they submit, which are up to the Secretary to design. The coordinator role is to ensure compliance with local school wellness policies, conduct trainings and information sharing of best practices and to collaborate with other coordinators. 

Reimbursement Rates and Value of Donated Foods

USDA has released new reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), Special Milk Program and Afterschool Care Programs. The rates were published in today’s Federal Register. Reimbursement rates for the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) are also available.A third notice published today announces the value of donated foods, specifically the national average value of donated foods or, where applicable, cash in lieu of donated foods for each lunch served by schools participating in the NSLP and for each lunch and supper served by institutions participating in the CACFP.The new rates and value of donated foods apply to School Year 2017-18 and are effective July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.Click here to see charts. 

President Trump Releases Fiscal 2018 Budget

Today, President Trump released his fiscal 2018 budget request, A New Foundation for American Greatness.  The request, presented to Congress, outlines in detail the President’s proposal to streamline spending making bold and specific policy priorities, and includes economic and accounting analyses.  This follows up on the President’s ‘skinny budget,’ which was released March 13, 2017.   

President Trump is calling for a $3.6 trillion slash in spending over the next 10 years.  For FY 2018, the request calls for $668 billion in defense spending, $22 billion above current spending; and a $479 billion budget for non-defense programs, which is $57 billion less than current spending.  Proposed SNAP funding would decrease more than $190 billion over 10 years – which is a decrease of over 25%.

In addition to the White House budget, it is worth noting that Congress is beginning their Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process.  In fact, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue will appear tomorrow, at a USDA Budget Hearing before the House Committee on Appropriations, where he will undoubtedly field questions pertaining to the proposed cuts to Agriculture programs.  That hearing is 10:00 am ET and will be webcasted.

The School Nutrition Association is reviewing the budget in detail, paying special attention to White House recommendations related to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and any impacts to school meal programs.  Sign up for SNA’s legislative and regulatory newsletter, Tuesday Morning, to ensure you are up to date.

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem Introduces School Meal Bill

On May 4th, 2017, Representative Kristi Noem (SD-At Large) introduced H.R. 2382, or the Permanent Flexibility for Schools Act. The bill amends the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to remove some Federal nutrition requirements. The bill essentially changes the words “nutritional requirements” to “nutrition guidelines” in the two previous bills, and thus does not necessitate school meals to definitively meet the standards that they laid out. The Permanent Flexibility for Schools Act has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Summary of AG/FDA Appropriation for FY2017

As you may have heard, Congressional leaders have agreed upon an FY17 omnibus spending bill.  The vote in both the House and Senate will occur sometime this week.  Attached is the summary for the Ag Appropriations portion.  CN Programs info is attached and below:Food and Nutrition Programs – The legislation contains discretionary funding, as well as mandatory funding required by law, for food and nutrition programs within the Department of Agriculture. This includes funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and child nutrition programs.Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – The bill provides $6.35 billion in discretionary funding for WIC, which is the same as the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. Because of robust prior-year funding and declining enrollments in the program, WIC has record levels of carryover balances left over from previous years. Therefore, to make the best use of taxpayer dollars, the bill rescinds $850 million of these unobligated balances, which will have no impact on participation in the program.Child nutrition programs – The bill provides for $22.8 billion in required mandatory funding – which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee – for child nutrition programs. This is $644 million above the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. This funding will provide free or reduced-price school lunches and snacks for 31 million children who qualify for the program. The bill provides more than $627 million for the Summer Food Service Program to ensure low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. In addition, the bill continues funding for a pilot program that provides additional funds through SNAP or WIC electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to ensure children in underserved communities receive food during the summer months.The bill also stops an Obama-era school meal regulation from being implemented – providing flexibility for whole grains and milk and preventing  changes to sodium standards that have not been fully scientifically vetted.

Commends USDA in Supporting Practical Flexibility to Benefit School Meals Programs and Students

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEContact: Elizabeth Cowles Johnston860-426-9991 ext 20; [email protected]5/1/17NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – School Nutrition Association (SNA) joined U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as he released an interim rule seeking regulatory flexibility for school meal programs.  Today's commitment by Secretary Perdue addresses concerns raised in SNA's 2017 Position Paper, which requested maintaining Target 1 sodium levels and restoring the initial requirement that at least half of grains offered through school meals be whole grain rich.While SNA supports preserving robust federal rules, the Association has continued to advocate for practical flexibility under federal nutrition standards to help ease menu planning challenges and appeal to diverse student tastes."School Nutrition Association is appreciative of Secretary Perdue's support of school meal programs in providing flexibility to prepare and serve healthy meals that are appealing to students.  School nutrition professionals are committed to the students they serve and will continue working with USDA and the Secretary to strengthen and protect school meal programs," said SNA CEO Patricia Montague, CAE.Members of SNA have advocated for flexibility to address overly prescriptive regulations that have resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste.  The Association recognizes that providing schools practical flexibility has been supported by Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Congressmen Robert Aderholt, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies for the House Appropriations Committee.In addition to requests for practical flexibility under federal nutrition regulations, SNA has called for protecting school meal programs from block grant proposals and expanding USDA Foods to support the School Breakfast Program.

SNA Welcomes Confirmation of USDA Secretary Perdue

4/25/17NATIONAL HARBOR, MD – The non-profit School Nutrition Association (SNA), representing 57,000 school nutrition professionals nationwide, welcomed the confirmation of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.“School Nutrition Association looks forward to working with Secretary Perdue to find ways to strengthen school meal programs, which support the success of more than 30 million students each school day,” said SNA President Becky Domokos-Bays, PhD, RD, SNS. “We hope Secretary Perdue will be a champion for these programs, which have ensured students have access to healthy meals at school for more than 70 years.”More than 900 school nutrition professionals participated in SNA’s Legislative Action Conference and Charge to the Hill earlier this month to advocate on behalf of school meals and students.  SNA has called for protecting school meal programs from block grant proposals, expanding USDA Foods to support the School Breakfast Program and granting practical flexibility under federal regulations for school menu planners. Click here to read SNA’s 2017 Position Paper.
2017 Position Paper

Click here for full article on SNA's website.
Every school day, school nutrition programs contribute to the health, well-being and achievement of more than 30 million students across America. To sustain this success, school meal programs require greater support.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) represents 57,000 professionals who serve students nutritious meals while being responsible stewards of federal funds. SNA urges Congress and the Administration to bolster historically under-funded school meal programs that are struggling to manage increased food and operating costs. While school meals should continue to meet robust federal nutrition standards, requirements must be streamlined to ease regulatory burdens and preserve the financial sustainability of school meal programs. Given the reality of the federal deficit and the absence of a Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, SNA requests that Congress:

Oppose any effort to block grant school meal programs. Block grants will cut funds and eliminate federal nutrition standards for school meals. Block grant funding caps will prevent schools from serving additional at-risk students when local economic downturns or rising enrollments increase the number of children eligible for free or reduced price meals. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned that block grants could “eliminate access to nutrition programs for some children and reduce it for others.” Learn more

Support schools, US farmers and students in the next Farm Bill by providing 6 cents in USDA Foods for every school breakfast served. Currently, commodity support is only provided for school lunch. Expanding USDA Foods to support the School Breakfast Program will allow more students to benefit from a nutritious school breakfast, help schools cover rising costs and advance USDA’s mission of supporting America’s farmers. Learn more

Provide schools practical flexibility under federal nutrition standards to prepare healthy, appealing meals.Overly prescriptive regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste. Federal nutrition standards should be modified to help school menu planners manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes. In particular, USDA should:       
  • Maintain the Target 1 sodium levels and eliminate future targets. The Institute of Medicine warned that “reducing the sodium content of school meals as specified and in a way that is well accepted by students will present major challenges and may not be possible.” (School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children)
  • Restore the initial requirement that at least half of grains offered through school lunch and breakfast programs be whole-grain rich. The current mandate that all grains offered be whole grain rich has increased waste and costs, while contributing to the decline in student lunch participation. Students are eating more whole grain breads and rolls, but schools are struggling with limited availability of specialty whole grain items and meeting students’ regional and cultural preferences for certain refined grains, such as white rice, pasta, grits, bagels or tortillas.
Simplify regulations to improve efficiencies and provide $1 million to conduct an independent study of the federal Child Nutrition Programs. Program complexities add to school nutrition costs. Duplicative and overly burdensome administrative mandates divert school nutrition professionals’ attention from their mission of nourishing students. Learn more

View a printable version of SNA's 2017 Position Paper.

2017 Position Paper Talking Points

Click here for full SNA's Talking Points.

Block Grants Fact Sheet

Click here for information from SNA on Block Grants.

USDA Foods

Click here for information from SNA on school breakfast commodities.

Casey/Udahl Bill on Shaming Students with Debt or Insufficient Funds

SNA does not have a position on these sorts of bills.  SNA staff did speak with one of the cosponsors staff.  No action is expected on these bills.  SNA is maintaining its previous position of not weighing in on bills that are not part of any organized reauthorization of CN programs--unless it's on block grants.

USDA Guidance on Paid Lunch Equity

Availability of an exemption to the Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) requirement for school food authorities (SFAs) in strong financial standing has been extended through School Year 2017-18. State agencies should exempt an SFA from the PLE requirements at 7CFR210.14(e) if the SFA requesting the exemption has been certified as meeting the meal pattern requirements and can demonstrate that the required increase to paid lunch prices or revenue contributions would cause the SFA to exceed the 3-month operating balance limit. State agencies are asked to distribute the  U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) memo announcing this update to operators immediately.

Latest USDA Memo on Sodium 2 Target Levels

click here to view memo

USDA Releases First-Ever Web-Based School Meals Appl. Prototype

New Web Application Designed to Save Time, Money

Contact: FNS Office of the Chief Communications Officer, (703) 305-2281

WASHINGTON, November 30, 2016 – Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) introduced its first ever web-based school meals program application prototype to streamline the process of applying for school meals and improve the user experience. The prototype – which combines research-based best practices, feedback from application users, and innovative user-experience design solutions submitted via a USDA-administered public contest – is specifically designed to address common issues and minimize the potential for errors in the application process.

“After gathering extensive research and drawing upon a wide-variety of resources, USDA is excited to offer a web-based school meals application prototype that will improve the application experience for families and schools alike,” said Kevin Concannon, USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services. “This project is just one of many recent efforts that demonstrate USDA’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of the school meal programs.”

The web-based prototype is primarily intended to serve as a functional model representing best practices in web-based application design.  States and schools may also choose to adapt it for their own use, and USDA strongly encourages software vendors that serve the school market to incorporate the prototype’s integrity features into their own products.

Previously, USDA provided a paper application prototype that schools and states can choose to adopt or adapt to best serve their needs. However, research shows that web-based applications can help reduce error rates by providing prompts and feedback to the applicant throughout the process.  Therefore, as part of its commitment to enhancing integrity across all school meal programs, USDA developed a web-based application prototype as well.

Earlier this year, USDA hosted a public contest to solicit design concepts for an open source web-based school meal application prototype. Drawing on the innovative strategies submitted, USDA partnered with a talented team of private-sector technologists through the Presidential Innovation Fellows program to create an official web-based prototype application. The resulting streamlined prototype is now available on the FNS website. For more information on the web-based prototype application, register for a webinar hosted by USDA on Dec. 15, 2016.

In total, nearly 100,000 schools and institutions serve more than 30 million children through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and over 14 million children through the School Breakfast Program (SBP). Many children receive their meals at no cost or for a reduced price through income-based eligibility. These students rely on school meals as a vital part of their daily nutrition, allowing them to thrive in the classroom and beyond.

The new web-based prototype is just one of several major steps USDA has taken to reduce errors and enhance integrity. USDA recently overhauled its paper application prototype, working with the innovation Lab @ OPM to combine the best elements of applications already in use around the country with that latest research on human centered design. USDA also promotes the use of direct certification, a process which relies on existing sources of information to certify eligible children for free school meals without the need for a household application, thereby reducing the possibility of errors. Errors could lead to improper payments, which present a risk to children who are eligible for assistance.  This new prototype application leverages technology and makes it easier for all concerned.

The school meals programs – NSLP and SBP – are just two of the 15 nutrition assistance programs administered by FNS.  Others include, but are not limited to, the Child and Adult Care Food Program; the Summer Food Service Program; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

USDA has worked to strengthen its core nutrition programs that support the nation’s vulnerable populations while, at the same time, putting in place strategies that improve the nutritional quality of the foods we provide. Since 2009, 7.9 million fewer people are struggling to provide enough food for themselves or household members and food insecurity for children is at the lowest level on record. USDA has led the effort to implement the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which ensures that more than 50 million children have a healthier food environment at school. Read more about USDA’s work to improve nutrition under this Administration at Growing a Healthier Future: Improving Nutrition and Access to Healthy Food for Americans.

Revised Guidance-Summer Meals, Area Eligibility-CN Programs

http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cn/SP10_SFSP06-2017_OS.pdf http://www.fns.usda.gov/2017-edition-questions-and-answers-national-school-lunch-program%E2%80%99s-seamless-summer-optionhttp://www.fns.usda.gov/area-eligibility-child-nutrition-programs

Trump and Flotus Agree on School Lunch

Speaking of school lunch,Donald Trump said in his interview for "The Dr. Oz Show," which aired Thursday, that inadequate food budgets and a lack of sports programs are helping to fuel the country's childhood obesity epidemic, reflecting a point of view that seems to agree at least partly with that of first lady Michelle Obama. The Republican presidential nominee was asked how he would handle America's obesity problem, particularly in children, by a member of the audience who identified themselves as a teacher."That is a school thing, to a certain extent," Trump said. "I guess you could say it's a hereditary thing, too. I would imagine it is certainly a hereditary thing. But a lot of schools aren't providing proper food because they have budget problems and they're buying cheaper food and not as good [of] food." He then went on to emphasize the importance of sports in schools.

CBPP Report says Block Grants put Children's Nutrition at Risk

A report issued on July 8, 2016, by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) says block grants would put children's nutrition at risk.
SNA Ralies against Block Grants

Block Grants PowerPoint presentation from SNA

The School Nutrition Association is taking a stand against a House GOP child nutrition bill that would open the door to block-granting federal school meals programs. The group, representing some 55,000 school nutrition professionals across the country, on June 15 held a public event on the Capitol aimed at drumming up opposition to the bill - marking a new round in a long-running fight. For years, SNA worked with House Republicans to push back on some of the Obama administration's new nutrition standards, but that alliance was severed when the House Education and the Workforce Committee last month introduced legislation that would create a three-state block-grant pilot for school meals programs - a move SNA and hunger and health groups see as an existential threat.

Read coverage from The Hill.Read coverage from the Miami Herald.

SNA's president and CEO has written a letter to update members about SNA's efforts to defeat the School Meals block grants proposal. Read the letter.SNA also has sent a letter, endorsed by all 50 states, to the House Education and The Workforce Committee advocating against Block Grant. Read the letter.MdSNA members are encouraged to contact their representatives immediately and ask them to say NO to School Lunch Block grants as proposed in H.R. 5003. Go to SNA's Take Action Web page, click on “Take Action” http://cqrcengage.com/schoolnutrition/home  and fill in your home address. A letter template will show up, please add your name & hit send. It’s that easy! Learn more about HR 5003.Block Grant Amendment to HR 5003 (see pages 100-113) 


2017-18 Income Eligibility Guidelines

Click here for updated USDA guidelines.


Helpful Links

http://www.usda.gov -This site contains topics handled by USDA including: Food & Nutrition, Food Safety; The Farm Bill and Laws and Regulations.

Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act - This is USDA's site for HHFKA, which includes a link to the Public Law.

http://thomas.loc.gov - A source of information to obtain House and Senate activity. You can retrieve information on submitted and passed Bills and Public Laws, check the Congressional Record, and obtain Committee information. This site also has links to state sites and The Library of Congress.

http://www.firstgov.gov/Agencies/Federal/Legislative.shtml - The U.S. Government's official web portal for information specifically dealing with the House of Representatives and the Senate. You can also retrieve information on U.S. government agencies.
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/legislative.html - This site gives information on Congressional materials and the legislative process.

http://www.schoolnutrition.org- School Nutrtion Association website