Reflections from LAC

Published in FSD K-12 Spotlight

Professional requirements, Smart Snacks in Schools and SNA’s 2014 position paper were all addressed at this year’s conference.

This year’s Legislative Action Conference (LAC), held last week in Washington, D.C., saw nearly 900 child nutrition professionals brave a winter storm in our nation’s capital. The weather wasn’t the only thing brewing; several new sets of proposed regulations—the latest in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act—were discussed. Here are some highlights from the conference:

  • An informal poll of attendees showed that child nutrition professionals agree with the new educational requirements for new directors. Attendees weren’t as sure about the USDA’s preferred level of education suggestion, as many in the room said they didn’t think the suggestions were on target.
  • The requirement for training: The training doesn’t have to be done in eight-hour increments, according to Thornton. It can be done in 15 minutes, etc., and over the course of time. There are ways to get this training done that aren’t as structured as people think, said the USDA’s Janey Thornton, citing reading articles as one way. Thornton said this to help alleviate concerns regarding a lack of time and funding for increased training for staff members.
  • An audience member asked about why there was no training mandated for industry members. Thornton said this wasn’t something the USDA would mandate, but she thought it would be a great thing if industry members received some training.
  • Another attendee asked about educational requirements for people changing jobs. For example, if a director works in a district with 5,000 students and is applying for a job with 10,000 students, would that make her a new director, meaning she would have to meet the educational requirements for districts with 10,000 students? Thornton said that wasn’t something the USDA had thought about.
  • Thornton said 91% of all lunches served to date during FY2014 have received the performance-based 6-cent reimbursement.
  • Thornton said there has been some confusion with the 100% whole-grain rich requirement. It means an item must be 51% whole grain or have the first listed ingredient be whole grains. It does not mean that the item must be 100% whole grain.
  • Breakfast in the classroom: Operators can still count it as offer versus serve if items are prepackaged or pre-bagged.
  • The paid meal equity exemption for SY2014-2015 will be issued very soon.
  • Thornton said they are working to get ingredient labels on USDA Foods to include ingredients and allergens.
  • Smart Snacks in Schools: The final rule will not be released until after the proposed rule is implemented this summer. 
  • Referring to Smart Snacks in Schools, Thornton said if a principal says, “I won’t do this,” there will be repercussions, but not on directors or their funds.

In addition, SNA released its 2014 position paper. Here are a few things the association is asking for:

  • Retain the initial requirement that 50% of grains offered through school lunch and breakfast programs be whole-grain rich.
  • Suspend the implementation of sodium target 2, pending the availability of scientific research that supports the reduction in daily sodium intake for children.
  • Remove the requirement that all students must select a ½-cup serving of a fruit or vegetable as part of a reimbursable breakfast and/or lunch.
  • Reopen and extend the comment period on Smart Snacks in Schools until July 2015.
  • Return to the five-year administrative review cycle.
  • Address the problem of unpaid meal changes.
  • Provide flexibility on Paid Meal Equity.