August 3, 2016

(SCHOOL NUTRITION) Permanent link   All Posts

Competitive Foods Final Rule

In July, the USDA, under which school nutrition programs lie, released the final rule regarding competitive foods, or any food sold on school grounds outside the reimbursable meal. This final rule makes very few changes from the interim rule released in 2013, meaning your schools’ competitive foods programs will remain largely unchanged. You’ll recall that we have been talking about school nutrition recently, as reauthorization bills have been moving in both the House and the Senate. Regulations like these underscore the need for a solid reauthorization, as that would be the only way to get any reprieve from the onerous rules of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Our talking points for this reauthorization are available here. If you talk to your members of Congress as they are home for campaigning recess, please be sure to tell your Senators not to support pushing the Senate bill through, as it would lead to increased administrative burden and would not provide any relief from the standards. 

AASA’s statement on the final competitive foods rule is:

AASA supports the overall goals to end childhood hunger and address the epidemic of childhood obesity in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and is currently working to support a reauthorization bill that would strengthen school nutrition programs. School superintendents understand the importance of fostering a healthy and positive learning environment, but these regulations come as unfunded mandates with significant cost impacts, forcing LEAs to make difficult choices in an era of extended underfunding of public schools.

AASA strongly supports the role of good nutrition for all students and recognizes its important role in helping advance student achievement. Every day, school districts across the nation provide millions of school-based meals, both breakfast and lunch. We recognize that the intention of this rule was to regulate competitive foods within schools. Unfortunately, we find it imposes an unprecedented expansion of regulation in an area that had previously been under state and local control. Further, this regulation comes without any federal resources to support the required compliance. AASA is opposed to the unfunded mandate this proposed rule represents to our nation’s schools.

In particular, we are most concerned about the complicated rules around when an item can or cannot be served a la carte. Given the extensive regulations of meals served as part of the school lunch and breakfast programs, AASA believes that further regulations on the sale of these items a la carte is unnecessarily burdensome. If an entrée is healthy enough to be served as a part of the reimbursable meal, it should be healthy enough to be served a la carte on any day of the week.

As written, the current law and regulations cause good nutrition policy to fail because the provisions make the program fiscally impossible in these tough economic times. The law and its regulations should not put LEAs in the position of having to choose between covering the federal funding shortfall and funding an instructional position. Little attention has been focused on the drain of local school district funds to pay for or offset the continuing un-funded costs of the federal free and reduced-priced school meals, and AASA is concerned that this rule compounds this problem.

School superintendents simply request that the role of the federal government as it relates to competitive foods in schools be proportional to the amount of resources it provides to support the regulations. As the federal government currently does not provide funds—and this regulation provides no resources—for competitive foods, there is not a role for federal policy to dictate competitive food policy in school districts.  Either provide the resources required to cover the costs associated with the new competitive food regulations or refrain from imposing new federal requirements. 



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