By Linda Irby and Wendy Weyer 2013-12-24 14:01:17
2014: Our Legislative To-Do List SNA has a full plate of activities to prepare for the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Although we’re still sorting out the changes to our programs from the last Child Nutrition Reauthorization (i.e. the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010), the next one, scheduled for 2015, is fast approaching. It’s a big process that requires a coordinated effort on several fronts. To begin, SNA must continually educate members of Congress and their staff in Washington, D.C., about school meal basics. After all, every seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of those in the Senate were up for election in 2012 (after the last Reauthorization) and will be again in 2014 (before the next one). While many faces on Capitol Hill remain the same from term to term, many do change, which is why we can’t relax and presume that our issues are well understood. School Nutrition 101 In November, SNA hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill regarding school meals. We were fortunate to have the participation of two local school nutrition directors—Marla Caplon, director of food and nutrition services for Montgomery County (Md.) Public Schools, and Joan Shorter, director of food and nutrition services for Prince George’s County (Md.) Public Schools—who provided their unique perspectives to key Congressional staff by reviewing many of the intricacies of child nutrition programs. Of course, some of the issues themselves change. Right now, we know that among the top current concerns of our members are: simplifying the administrative review process, achieving financial sustainability, meeting sodium requirements, accommodating increased fruit and vegetable costs, facing still-to-be-released professional standards and gaining flexibility in meeting nutrition standards for school meals. These are topics we all know inside and out, but often can be new concepts to those on the Hill. The briefing was a key advocacy strategy to connect with Hill staffers who likely will be involved in drafting 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation, and it, along with 25+ one-on-one meetings held at key legislative offices immediately following the briefing, helps to advance these important conversations. This type of relationshipbuilding comes at a critical time to solidify SNA as the “go-to” organization on school nutrition programs among lawmakers even before the drafting of Child Nutrition Reauthorization legislation begins. Our legislative team in Washington, anchored by Cathy Schuchart, staff vice president of child nutrition and policy, along with representatives from Barnes & Thornburg, our new legal and political counsel, certainly are taking a boots-on-the-ground approach! In addition to the Hill meetings, SNA has hosted or participated in a number of gatherings with representatives of allied groups that also have connections and interest in child nutrition. These include associations representing the agriculture industry, as well as those involved in education, children’s health and hunger relief, ranging from the National Parent Teacher Association to the National School Boards Association. SNA is taking the lead in educating these organizations about the complexities school nutrition professionals face in operating meal programs every day. Later this month, members of SNA’s Executive Team will work to provide deeper insights to these organizations and their representatives. SNA Position Paper One of the tools we use to coalesce our legislative priorities is the annual SNA Position Paper (formerly the Legislative Issue Paper). SNA’s Public Policy and Legislation (PPL) Committee has been hard at work in crafting the 2014 edition, while also gearing up for the Legislative Action Conference (LAC) in March and spreading the word about the work of our SNA Political Action Committee. The PPL Committee met in December to draft this very important document, which articulately captures the legislative focus areas for the second session of the 113th Congress. The Position Paper guides the Association’s leadership and staff in public policy advocacy, and it is used at a grassroots level, as SNA members visit lawmakers during the annual “Charge to the Hill” at the Legislative Action Conference (LAC) in March in Washington, D.C. The Position Paper and its talking points should prove helpful in these meetings, as well as in conversations with legislators back on home turf. Look for a copy of the Position Paper to be posted on SchoolNutrition.org as LAC draws closer. LAC 2014 The passionate voices of school nutrition always ring out loud and clear during LAC, and it’s unlikely that this year will be any different. LAC is an unparalleled opportunity to meet with your representatives in Washington and discuss the latest policy issues affecting your programs. You are the expert on your district’s school nutrition program, and it is critical that members of Congress learn from you. Bring your expertise, your passion and your stories to Washington, D.C., and prepare to shape and define national policy relating to school nutrition. Network with fellow SNA members, and hear from an impressive and well-informed array of speakers, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and keynote speaker Kathleen Parker, a political columnist for The Washington Post. For more about LAC or to register for the conference, visit www.schoolnutrition.org/lac. SNA Political Action Committee Many of SNA’s crucial legislative activities are made possible through contributions made to the SNA Political Action Committee (SNA PAC). A political action committee supports an organization’s political goals by raising money from individuals who share those goals and using those funds to make contributions to similarly aligned political candidates. SNA PAC, which was founded by the 1981 SNA Executive Board on the heels of the devastating federal budget cuts, works to support Congressional members who are involved in and passionate about child nutrition programs. The goals behind the creation of the SNA PAC hold true today: to educate members of Congress about the child nutrition programs; and to thank the members who continue to support the programs year after year. SNA PAC is a key resource in pursuit of the Association’s legislative goals. Its political contributions are voted on by its own board (see the box on page 78) and are made to federal lawmakers who support SNA initiatives and serve on influential committees with jurisdiction over our programs, such as the House Education and Workforce or Senate Agriculture Committees. Recipients also are identified based on a perceived benefit in cultivating or enhancing a relationship with that lawmaker. In 2011, a non-election year, SNA PAC contributed $8,500 to individual members of Congress. In 2012, SNA PAC contributed $7,250. SNA’s legislative team takes pride in being especially selective and a good steward with the money given by its members. The totals we contribute to lawmakers may be a small amount when compared with larger associations, but it often is the price of participation at a fundraising reception that subsequently provides opportunities for more conversations about the programs we work so hard to grow. Contributing to the SNA PAC is a valuable opportunity for you to play a key role in our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. We challenge each of our state affiliates to develop collections in order to be recognized this summer at the Annual National Conference as leading contributors! For more information on SNA PAC, see www.schoolnutrition.org/PAC. On the Road This spring, School Nutrition is pleased to launch a new periodic column in this space to track progress along the “Road to Reauthorization.” The political environment in Washington is sure to make the 2015 Reauthorization especially challenging. Your active participation will be crucial to our success, and the first start is getting engaged and staying informed. We’ll do our best to help with both initial goals! Linda Irby is chair of the SNA PAC Board, and Wendy Weyer is chair of SNA’s Public Policy and Legislation Committee. SNA PAC Board of Directors 2013-14 • Linda Irby, SNS, Chair • Chuck Ainsworth • Cindy Brooks • Karen Johnson, SNS • Pat McCoy, SNS • Leah Schmidt, SNS, SNA Board of Directors Advisor • Julia Bauscher, SNS, SNA Board of Directors Advisor • Jean Ronnei, SNS, SNA Board of Directors Advisor • Sarah Murphy, Staff Advisor • Cathy Schuchart, Staff Advisor Sign up for Tuesday Morning Are you getting the latest news on school nutrition policy? Tuesday Morning is SNA’s weekly e-newsletter that covers the most recent happenings in federal and state policy and legislation, featuring related updates, webinars, events and upcoming meetings. Sign up today and gain access to archived issues at www.schoolnutrition.org/tuesdaymorning!
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