2012 Legislative Priorities SNA asks Congress for help in supporting the efforts of school districts working to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a final rule updating the meal patterns for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs (see “The Wait Is Over,” page 15), SNA’s public policy team is working with our friends in USDA and on Capitol Hill to address the implementation of other provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. SNA’s priorities in Washington are set forth in its annual Legislative Issue Paper. This document is used by the Association’s leadership and staff to guide public policy advocacy, as well as on a grassroots level by individual SNA members visiting lawmakers in the nation’s capital during the annual Legislative Action Conference in March and back home. The text of this year’s Issue Paper follows, including talking points (in italics) to help you explain the organization’s position and rationale when meeting with your national legislators. Since 1946, the National School Lunch Act has functioned successfully as a grant-inaid program. Continuing historic support for child nutrition, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-296) made a number of important changes to strengthen the programs. The statute, among other things, limited indirect expenses, established professional standards and required nutrition guidelines for all competitive foods and beverages sold in schools. In order to fully embrace these changes, in a fiscally challenging environment, SNA asks Congress to consider the following: Unpaid Meal Charges Unpaid meal charges owed to the School Food Authority (SFA) by families participating in the program have increased significantly. Congress should require USDA to establish a consistent national policy on how to address the debt incurred by unpaid meal charges. School nutrition programs have experienced an increase in the number of children who “charge” their school meals when their parents fail to pay. As a result, some districts have accumulated substantial unpaid meal debts, threatening their ability to cover the cost of meeting new federal nutrition standards for school meals. Currently, individual school districts must determine if students will receive alternate or unpaid meals, how many meals can be charged and how to handle meal charge debts. Congress should require USDA to establish clear regulations on how all schools must respond to requests for unpaid meals and how to manage the debt incurred by providing them. Income Data Each year, the School Food Authority collects and verifies income data that is used by a number of school and non-school programs. The cost of collecting this data is borne most often by the SFA. Therefore, USDA, in coordination with the Secretary of Education, should establish a mechanism for sharing these costs equitably by all programs using this data. School nutrition programs invest significant funds, staff time and other resources in distributing, collecting and processing the Free and Reduced-Price Meals Application. This data, collected by school nutrition staff for the sole purpose of ensuring students from low-income families receive free or reduced-price meals, is now being used by schools to receive millions of dollars in Title 1, E-Rate and other funds. As school nutrition programs struggle to meet costly new federal nutrition standards, Congress should take action to ensure the expense of collecting free/reduced-price meal data is equitably born by all parties that use the data. Breakfast Commodities Breakfast is often recognized as the most important meal of the day for academic success, but it is not supported with USDA Foods (commodities). Therefore, as part of the 2012 Farm Bill, SNA requests 10 cents per breakfast in USDA commodities to support the School Breakfast Program. While the National School Lunch Program benefits from the support of agricultural commodities, the School Breakfast Program (SBP) does not. USDA estimates that when the updated meal pattern is fully implemented, food costs for the SBP may increase by 14 cents per breakfast; but the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act did not provide any increase in the reimbursement rate for breakfast. To help ensure that schools continue to provide healthy breakfasts at school and to assist school nutrition programs in meeting costly new nutrition standards for breakfast, SNA calls for 10 cents per breakfast in USDA Foods. Management Companies SNA requests that Congress require the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a standard contract that school districts may use between local school districts and foodservice management companies. SNA also requests that Congress give USDA the authority, in coordination with the states, to review and monitor compliance of all bids and contracts between local school districts and for-profit foodservice management companies. To ensure that federal tax dollars are being used wisely, USDA should have the authority to effectively monitor all school nutrition operations, including those run by management companies. Currently, USDA is not party to the contract negotiations—nor does it routinely monitor or audit even a sample of these contracts; thus, there is no effective oversight of these agreements. School districts and states, hampered by tight budgets and limited resources, often do not have the ability to properly review or monitor these very expensive and complicated contracts with for-profit foodservice management companies. A standard, model contract developed by USDA would ease the burden on school districts and protect the interests of all parties. Indirect Costs Section 307 of P.L. 111-296 requires the Secretary of Agriculture to determine which expenses (‘indirect costs”) incurred by a local school can be charged to the nonprofit school foodservice account. While the Department plans to conduct a study regarding indirect costs, SNA requests that Congress follow up with the Secretary to guarantee that only those expenses “necessary to provide meals under the Act” are paid from the school foodservice account, and that appropriate regulations are implemented to ensure compliance. As school district budgets have tightened up, many school nutrition programs have experienced escalating indirect charges that exceed the foodservice operations’ fair share. The method used to calculate how much the school meals program owes the district for shared expenses varies from one locale to the next. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to establish federal regulations that define indirect costs. Congress should ensure those regulations limit indirect costs to pay only those expenses necessary to provide meals. SN 2011–12 SNA Public Policy & Legislative Committee SNA thanks the 2011-12 Public Policy & Legislation Committee for its hard work in crafting this year’s Legislative Issue Paper. • Cynthia Brooks, Conn.—Chair • Doug Davis, SNS, Vt. • Kathy Fruge, Mich. • Lyman Graham, N.M. • Renee Hanks, SNS, N.Y. • Dolores Sutterfi eld, Ark. • Stephanie Taylor, Ga. • Wendy Weyer, Wash. • Marshall Matz—Legislative Counsel • Helen Phillips, SNS—Board Advisor • Sandy Ford, SNS—Board Advisor • Leah Schmidt, SNS—Board Advisor • Chris Meinerding—Industry Advisor • Frank DiPasquale—SNA CEO • Cathy Schuchart—Staff Advisor
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