Neither snow nor sequester could slow the momentum of school nutrition professionals advocating for practical changes to school meal regulations at SNA’s 41st Legislative Action Conference. Bitter winds gusted across the nation’s capital just days after bitter words were exchanged (again) on Capitol Hill following yet another failure of bipartisan compromise regarding the nation’s debt woes. But at the J.W. Marriott, situated a few blocks between the Capitol and the White House, a record-breaking number of school nutrition professionals, industry partners and other advocates remained undeterred by either the forecasted snow nor the recent sequester. These 900+ attendees of SNA’s 41st Legislative Action Conference (LAC), March 3-6, 2013, were fired up and ready to make the most of a long history of bipartisan support for child nutrition. Indeed, the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs were among the few to have been exempted from the sweeping sequestration budget cuts, and support from both major political parties was evident with the pre-LAC announcement of the bipartisan “Sensible School Lunch Act” proposal in the U.S. Senate, which would eliminate the weekly maximums for grains and meat/meat alternates established in the nutrition standards regulation published in January 2012. Still, it was clear that the climate in Washington means school nutrition advocates must remain persistent and passionate. But as Marshall Matz, SNA’s Washington counsel, reminded attendees, the positions of the Association’s Legislative Issue Paper are “small enough and precise enough” that they are issues that members of Congress can solve. LAC 2013 by the Numbers • More than 900 school nutrition professionals, allies and partners, a record high, attended the 41st annual Legislative Action Conference. This included 72 first-timers and 11 SNA past presidents, whose work as advocates for school nutrition continues to inspire many in the profession. Also in attendance were 314 industry members (representing some 130 companies). • LAC attendees represented more than 376 school districts, serving a collective enrollment of nearly 9.5 million students. • The timely and informative program was planned by SNA’s 16-member Public Policy & Legislation Committee, chaired by Cindy Brooks. Speakers included 1 political correspondent (Chuck Todd, NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent), 3 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offi cials (including Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services and SNA Past President Janey Thornton, PhD, SNS); 2 U.S. senators (Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.) and 1 U.S. House of Representatives member (Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio). • 1 special Industry Forum featured insightful reports regarding new meal pattern implementation from 3 state agency directors (June Barrett, Alabama; Colleen Fillmore, Idaho; and Katie Millett, Massachusetts), as well as 3 school nutrition directors (Jonathan Dickl, SNS, Tennessee; Gitta Grether- Sweeney, Oregon; and Beth Wallace, SNS, Colorado). • After the annual Charge to the Hill, attendees were treated to a special appearance by 2 NFL players, hailing from the Washington Redskins and Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens (see page 32). They offered sincere admiration and encouragement to school nutrition professionals. • 1 bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate just before LAC by John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). S. 427, the “Sensible School Lunch Act,” would eliminate the weekly maximums for grains and meat/meat alternates established in the nutrition standards regulation published in January 2012. A companion bill, H.R. 1303, was introduced in the House of Representatives later in March by Rep. Steve Silvers (R-Ohio); it also addresses the grains/ proteins maximum issue, as well as the Association’s position on the paid meal equity provision of the Healthy, Hunger- Free Kids Act of 2010. At press time, the Senate bill had gained 10 cosponsors and the House bill had gained 21 cosponsors. • Research presented by Share Our Strength and Deloitte revealed that students who eat school breakfast achieve 17.5% higher math scores and are 20% more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not eat school breakfast; those graduates earn about $10,000 more and have a 40% higher employment rate than those who drop out. A National Dairy Council study on wellness intervention outcomes found that brain activity improves after just 20 minutes of physical activity; only 35% of high school students meet recommendations for 60 minutes daily activity. • SNA’s Political Action Committee, chaired by Sara Gasiorowski, SNS, raised more than $6,500. SNA’s legislative team uses these funds to attend important congressional fundraisers and gain access to key lawmakers. • The 10th annual “A Possible Dream” Gala fundraiser, supporting the initiatives of SNA’s Global Child Nutrition Foundation (GCNF), honored 3 outstanding individuals (see page 30), while close to 450 attendees dined and mingled at the event. Ticket sales, plus the contributions of 28 sponsors, combined to raise almost $300,000 for GCNF. • For the third year in a row, select school nutrition operators learned valuable management strategies as part of the Executive Management Seminar held at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. Some 74 participants took part in the 2-day program, made possible by the generous support of 4 companies: Heartland School Solutions; Hobart, Traulsen and Vulcan (divisions of ITW/FEG); SFSPac Food Service Sanitation Systems; and Tyson Foods, Inc.
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