SNA tries again to get its flexibility message out

The association held a conference call to share hardships directors are facing with the new USDA regulations.

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill.—The School Nutrition Association (SNA) held a conference call today to address the growing discontent surrounding the child nutrition industry.

SNA is asking Congress and the USDA to allow for one-year waivers for new regulations set to go into place July 1 for those districts that have been negatively impacted financially by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The White House, USDA and SNA past presidents have spoken out against allowing the waivers.

Here’s what some of the conference participants said about the need for the waivers:

Michael Rosenberger, Irving ISD, Texas: Our cost is up 20 cents per lunch to meet the 6-cent certification. We anticipate the cost of breakfast to up 28 cents with the new regulations; that’s an $882,000 in food cost for breakfast with zero increase in reimbursement. With the new regulations, we’re looking at having to cut our popular entrée salad program because it is unaffordable. Breakfast in the classroom and universal breakfast are on a warning light because of increased cost. There’s a risk nationwide of dumbing down menus to meet the new regs when you get the same amount of money no matter how good your menu is (i.e., more processed meat instead of whole-muscle meats and canned vegetables instead of fresh). Some people in our industry call the loss of 1 million meals served per year a success.

Sara Gasiorowski, Wayne Township, Indiana: What kind of message is being sent to our kids when we can sell diet soda and sugar-free gum but not a chicken breast sandwich on whole-grain bread because the sodium is too high?

Cindy Marion, Yadkin County Schools, North Carolina: These new regulations are really pushing our paying students away from the program. I’m a little concerned we’re beginnig to demonize foods like tortillas and grits that are regional or cultural. When we see numbers of meals going down, I don’t know how anyone can refute that districts are having trouble with these regs. Students are walking away from the program.

Joannie Miller, Bogalusa City Schools, Louisiana: We’re not moving backwards when we ask for the changes; we want the flexibility to do our jobs. I’m upset with the recent politicization of the program in the media; I’ve been working with state legislators to keep them informed, both Democrats and Republicans.