The Advocate October 2022
September 29, 2022
- The Administration will continue to support the expansion of Summer EBT (another nutrition priority for AASA).
- USDA will provide training and resources to school meal program operators on incorporating more Indigenous and traditional foods into school meals to improve access.
- USDA will advance a new Healthy Meals Incentive initiative—supported by ARP funding—to support schools’ efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school meals. This initiative will challenge all players within the K-12 food supply chain to increase the availability of and access to healthy offerings, recognize School Food Authorities (SFAs) that are innovating in offering nutritious school meals, and provide funding to small and/or rural SFAs to improve the nutritional content of meals offered through the Child Nutrition Programs.
- USDA will work to strengthen and diversify the suppliers that provide healthy, nutritious, and local foods to schools and nutrition assistance programs by assisting small and underserved farmers and businesses to become vendors for school meals.
- ED will provide guidance to states and school districts on how they can use funds under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act grants and ARP funds to support physical activity for children.
- ED will, through the Engage Every Student Initiative, promote strategies for increasing participation in physical fitness programs and for incorporating physical activity in summer learning and engagement and after-school programs.
- States and school districts should increase investment in school food programs such as providing investments to support kitchen infrastructure and training school nutrition professionals.
- States, localities, and K-12 schools should consider incorporating culinary arts and nutrition education into schools.
- Philanthropy should support pilots that foster collaboration between food service programs at K-12 schools and colleges or universities in order to synergize efforts around workforce training and food procurement.
- The food industry should increase the availability of and access to foods that are low in sodium and added sugars—including foods meeting or exceeding FDA’s voluntary sodium reduction targets—and high in whole grains, particularly for the K-12 market.
Watch the entire conference recording here.
So far, the reactions from Congress to the conference have been mixed and, as could be expected, fairly partisan. The conference overall did not have a strong bipartisan showing—Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) as the only GOP lawmaker in attendance. Additionally, on the day of the conference, House Ed and Labor Committee Ranking Member Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a statement criticizing the event—claiming it did not engage key stakeholders and dismissed it as partisan. Meanwhile, support from Democratic lawmakers poured in for both the conference and its policy proposals.
The path to a bipartisan agreement to expand access to school meals is unclear, but there is hope that the Senate will take up Child Nutrition Reauthorization before the end of this year—building on the momentum of the House Democrats’ version: the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, which passed the House Ed and Labor Committee on July 28. The bill in its current form would permanently expand CEP, which would be a longer-term solution than any USDA action, but given the current Republican opposition to the policy it will require strong advocacy to get it included in the final bill.