2018 Legislative Report

NSNA with Senator

Mary Finnegan,Senator Joni Albrecht District 17, Judy Poehlman, Lora Harders, at Nebraska Unicameral. Feb 2, when we went to visit the Nebraska Senators

Every school day, federal child nutrition programs provide nutritious meals that are critical to the health and academic success of more than 30 million students nationwide. The federal government plays a vital role in the success of these programs: providing reimbursements for each meal served, ensuring equal access to free and reduced price meals for students in need and administering national nutrition standards.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA), representing 57,000 professionals who work on the frontlines in school nutrition programs, urges Congress and the Administration to protect students by strengthening the federal government’s commitment to these programs. Congress should bolster historically under-funded school meal programs, which contribute to economic growth and national security, and USDA should continue to minimize unnecessary regulatory burdens. SNA specifically requests that Congress:

1. Oppose any effort to block grant school meal programs. Block grants will dismantle an effective and crucial federal program, putting students at risk by cutting funds and abolishing federal standards for school meals. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned that block grants could “eliminate access to nutrition programs for some children and reduce it for others.” Fixed-sum block grants would leave states without adequate funds to respond to unforeseen circumstances, including natural disasters or economic recessions. Students in need would go without.

2. Support H.R. 3738, the Healthy Breakfasts Help Kids Learn Act, to provide 6 cents in USDA Foods (commodities) for every school breakfast served. Currently, commodity support is only provided for school lunch. Expanding USDA Foods to support the School Breakfast Program will allow more students to benefit from a nutritious school breakfast, help schools cover rising costs and advance USDA’s mission of supporting America’s farmers.

3. Continue to monitor and support USDA’s work to simplify overly burdensome child nutrition mandates to improve efficiencies and reduce costs. Duplicative administrative requirements divert school nutrition professionals’ attention from their mission of nourishing students.

USDA is modifying federal nutrition regulations to help school menu planners manage challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes. Overly prescriptive regulations resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste. Therefore, SNA asks Congress to monitor USDA’s efforts to provide school meal program flexibility. The final rule should:


    • o Maintain the Target 1 sodium levels and eliminate future targets. The Institute of Medicine warned that “reducing the sodium content of school meals as specified and in a way that is well accepted by students will present major challenges and may not be possible.” (School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children, 2010)


  • o Restore the initial requirement that at least half of grains offered with school meals be whole grain rich. The current mandate that all grains offered be whole grain rich has increased waste and costs and contributed to the decline in student lunch participation. Students are eating more whole grains, but schools still struggle with students’ regional and cultural preferences for specific refined grains, such as white rice, pasta, grits or tortillas. The temporary whole grain waiver process is inconsistent across states, limiting the availability of waivers to struggling schools unable to meet overly burdensome application mandates.

Spring 2016 Legislative Report

WOW what an exciting time to be in legislation. We had the opportunity to visit with the Senators at the unicameral on January 26, 2016.  We took baskets of fruit and smart snack items to the Senators talking to them about our School Nutrition programs and asking them to consider in the future giving us $.05 for EVERY meal we serve.  I had a follow up from a Senator wanting the nutritional statements on the smart snacks and wondering if that was what we really offered.  So we created an interest.

I think it is important that you tell your story and keep communication open with your elected officials on your programs, from School board, city officials, State and Federal. Invite them in to your kitchens and serving lines, email and call them.  Take a moment to talk to the State and Federal representation if they are in your area.  Tell them the good things that are working with your program and what needs to be improved.

Reauthorization is still being discussed in DC. As you know it was to be acted on this past fall.  Feb 27-March 1 Mary Finnegan and I attended LAC in Washington DC and asking them to keep moving forward, implementing the changes that we are asking for. The Child Reauthorization bill has left the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Please read the SNA email, articles in “School Nutrition” and NSNA and SNA websites about this very timely topic.

I followed up with all the offices after we got back home.

Senator Deb Fischer. Would be interested in attending our conference and visiting school lunch rooms. Helped with some of the wording in the Senate bill, does not believe that any item should be mandatory on the lunch tray.  Requested some information and hopefully she received it.

Senator Ben Sasse Would be interested in helping serve a meal in one of our cafeterias. Around the Fremont area would be best.

Congressman Adrian Smith. Always interested in cutting back Federal control in Nebraska.  Would welcome visits in the school lunch rooms.

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. Communication is with Patty Sheetz his legislative aid.

Congressman Brad Ashford Communication is with Janelle Hinze legislative aid. She contacted the Dept. of Agriculture to find out some more information on paper work reduction.  Would like more input from other schools. Remember he was the one who introduced a bill last year to relax some of the restrictions.

If you hear that they will be in your community please try to reach out to them. I know many times when they are in Wayne it is over the lunch hour and it makes it hard to get away.  In this election year however there have been candidate forums where you may have the opportunity to visit with them.

Thank you for the connections you have made with your elected officials. Thank you for the great job you do every day putting the students in your schools first.

Judy Poehlman



Spring 2015 Legislative Report

If an author never put their story in print or a speaker never spoke their thoughts, the story would never be told.

That is my challenge to you. Tell everyone what you do with your school nutrition program. What is your dream in your program to make it the best ever?

We often quietly feed our students looking out for their needs, but we don’t do a really good job letting everyone know what a GREAT job we do. Maybe we really want to do something but can’t because of hurdles we cannot control. Let people know those challenges.

In January we were in Lincoln visiting with our State Senators. We delivered fruit baskets to each Senator and visited with them or their office about our programs. We would like you to take it one step further and contact your local elected officials and invite them in to your cafeterias and talk to them about your programs. One Senator told me about how his local school host the city elected officials for a meal with the students.

March 1-4 Mary Finnegan and I attended LAC in Washington DC. 2015 is a re- authorization year for School Nutrition Programs. SNA is asking for the changes with the current rules, allowing us more flexibility for our programs. Let our 5 elected officials in DC know what these changes would mean for your program. SNA’s position paper can be found on the SNA and NSNA website. I will send copies for be passed out at the spring district meetings and at State Conference in Kearney.

Let your thoughts and story be told by you. They can’t read our minds, but they can read our letters and email.

Have your students write letters and send them out to the elected officials.

If you go to the 5 elected officials websites you will find a link to get their updates, they often list when they will be back in Nebraska or their team will be and what cities they will be in. Stop by and talk to them. Rep Smith was just in Wayne again last week, I had hoped to get down to meet with him, but I had an interview with him.

Tell them about whole grains, smart snack, sodium limits, 12 oz 1% flavored milk vs diet pop, the Federal government telling your school what they can charge and how much you can raise the price.

Let your voice be heard,


Judy Poehlman


SNA 2015 Position Paper, Talking Points

1.Increase the per meal reimbursement for school breakfast and lunch by 35 cents to ensure School Food Authorities (SFAs) canSNAnebraska4COLOR afford to meet federal requirements.

  • Since passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA), new regulations and rising food and labor costs have drastically increased the cost of preparing school meals.
  • This threatens the financial sustainability of meal programs and limits their ability to invest in further menu improvements.
  • Meal programs are prohibited from carrying losses over from one school year to the next. When these programs can’t cover their costs, school districts must pick up the tab, to the detriment of all students.
  • USDA estimates the new standards will cost school districts $1.2 billion in additional food and labor expenses in Fiscal Year 2015 alone.
  • As a result, more than half of school meal program operators anticipate their program expenses will exceed revenue this school year, according to a recent SNA survey.
  • Only 18% anticipate their programs will break even, while 29% are unsure.
  • This financial crisis is likely to deepen. 92% of respondents reported that rising costs pose a “serious” or “moderate” challenge to their programs, with 70% indicating “serious.”
  • Declining student lunch participation adds to the financial pressure on school meal programs by reducing revenue when costs are rising.
    • USDA data shows student lunch participation is down by 1.4 million per day since 2012, when the new standards took effect.
    • In SNA’s survey, 75% of school nutrition operators reported that decreased lunch participation is a “serious” or “moderate” challenge for their programs, with 52% indicating “serious.”
    • The Government Accountability Office affirmed that the new standards influenced this decline in participation.
  • When Congress drafted the HHFKA, SNA requested a 35 cent per meal increase in the federal reimbursement to help cover the cost of preparing and serving school meals.
  • Congress provided an additional six cents for lunch, but no additional reimbursement for breakfast, leaving many school meal programs financially compromised.
  • Congress must increase the federal reimbursement rates so schools can afford to meet the new regulations.
  •  Prior to implementation of any new legislation and regulations, Congress should provide full funding to cover all related costs identified through economic analysis.
  •  A 35 cent increase in the reimbursement rate would cost $2.5 billion annually, based on the number of meals served in FY 2014.
  1. Maintain the Target 1 sodium level reductions and suspend implementation of further targets.
  • Schools made significant sodium reductions to meet Target 1, effective July 2014.
  • Before advancing to Target 2, the Institute of Medicine recommended assessing the impact of Target 1 and warned that “reducing the sodium content of school meals as specified and in a way that is well accepted by students will present major challenges and may not be possible.” (School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children)
  • Naturally occurring sodium present in milk, meats and other foods will force schools to take nutritious choices off the menu, and drive more students away from healthy school meals.
  • For instance, a small turkey wrap, prepared with USDA Foods and served with milk and low sodium green beans, exceeds Target 2 sodium limits.
  • Studies have shown school meals are more nutritious than packed lunches or lunches purchased from fast food restaurants.
  • Despite these benefits, student lunch participation is down by 1.4 million per day since 2012, when the new standards took effect.
  • The Government Accountability Office affirmed that the new standards influenced this decline in participation.
  • GAO also warned that forthcoming limits on sodium would remain problematic with cost and product availability making sodium targets difficult for many schools to implement.
  • The health benefits to students choosing nutritious school lunches within Target 1 sodium limits is clear.
  • Additional sodium reductions, at the risk of decreasing student participation, are not merited based on the inconclusive evidence on the benefits of sodium reduction for children.

National School Lunch Program Sodium Reduction Targets

Grades Target 1(July 1, 2014) Target 2(July 1, 2017) Final Target(July 1, 2022)
K-5:6-8:9-12: ≤1,230≤1,360≤1,420 ≤935≤1,035≤1,080 ≤640≤710≤740


  1. Grant individual SFAs the authority to decide whether students are required to take a fruit or vegetable as part of a reimbursable meal.
  • SNA supports offering a greater variety and quantity of fruits and vegetables; however, some students do not want a fruit or vegetable with every single meal.
  • The requirement that a student must take a ½ cup with every breakfast and lunch has increased waste and costs, leaving schools with less funding to invest in more expensive and appealing produce choices such as fresh berries, sliced melon and kiwi.
  • Researchers from Cornell and Brigham Young universities found that requiring students to take a fruit or vegetable with every meal increased waste by 100%
  • As a result, an estimated $684 million of fruits and vegetables is thrown in the trash each school year.
  • In a recent SNA survey, 81% of school nutrition professionals reported an increase in the amount of food being thrown away by students at lunch since implementation of the new meal pattern requirements.
  • Vegetables were identified as the meal component that was most frequently causing the increase in plate waste.
  • In a subsequent SNA survey, 63% of school nutrition operators indicated “Increased plate/food waste” was a “serious” challenge for their programs.
  • SFAs know best whether this mandate has been beneficial or detrimental and should be allowed to decide whether students must take a fruit or vegetable with every meal.
  1. Restore the initial requirement that at least half of grains offered through school lunch and breakfast programs be whole grain rich.
  • SNA supports the July 2012 requirement that half of all grains offered with school meals be whole grain rich.
  • However, the 2014 mandate that all grains must be whole grain rich has increased waste and contributed to the decline in student lunch participation.
  • Students are eating more whole grain breads and buns, but some schools are struggling to find acceptable specialty whole grain items.
  • Challenges include limited availability of whole grain rich foods, higher costs and regional preferences for certain refined grains such as bagels or biscuits.
  • In a recent SNA survey, more than 60% of school nutrition directors anticipated the 2014 whole grain mandate would increase meal costs and present procurement challenges for the 2014-15 school year.
  • Schools should be permitted to serve white rice or tortillas on occasion, just like most families do.
  • Restoring the requirement that half of all grains offered be whole grain rich will ensure students continue to receive a variety of whole grain choices in school, while limiting waste.
  1. Allow all food items that are permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as an a la carte item.
  • The Smart Snacks in School rule forced schools to take many healthy school meal options off a la carte menus, unnecessarily limiting student choices and reducing revenue for school meal programs.
  • School meal standards gradually phase in sodium reductions over 10 years, but Smart Snacks rules do not, forcing competitive foods to meet excessively low sodium limits.
    • For instance, a 2 oz. eq. of USDA’s reduced sodium ham – without bread, cheese or condiments – nearly surpasses the sodium limit for entrees (≤480 mg).
    • One cup of low sodium peas exceeds the limit for sides (≤230 mg or ≤200mg by July 2016).
    • Even salads have taken a hit as the sodium in low fat dressing often exceeds limits.
  • In a recent SNA survey, 74% of school nutrition operators reported that Smart Snacks rules are a “serious” or “moderate” challenge for their school meal programs, with 42% indicating “serious.”
  • Allowing foods that meet nutrition standards for school meals to be sold as daily competitive food choices can help preserve the financial stability of school meal programs and ensure students can choose from a variety of healthy choices in the cafeteria.
  1. Modify Section 205, Paid Lunch Equity of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, by exempting SFAs that had a positive fund balance at the end of the previous school year.
  • School meal prices, just like restaurant prices, differ from one community to the next, as schools must take into account local food and labor costs and what families are able and willing to pay.
  • Section 205 required many SFAs to increase their paid meal prices regardless of these local conditions.
  • SNA’s 2014 State of School Nutrition Survey revealed that Paid Lunch Equity requirements are the primary driving force behind meal price increases.
  • Results indicate 88% of those who increased full paid lunch prices in 2012/13 attributed the increase to the Paid Lunch Equity provision.
  • When school meal prices increase, even gradually, student lunch participation declines.
  • In a subsequent SNA survey, more than half (58%) of school nutrition operators reported that paid lunch equity requirements are a “serious” or “moderate” challenge for their programs.
  • The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that Paid Lunch Equity mandated price increases “are another change that state and SFA officials believe likely influenced lunch participation.”
    • GAO cited SFA officials stating that these price increases, timed with implementation of new nutrition standards, “led some students to stop buying school lunches because they felt they were being asked to pay more for less food.”
    • GAO also cited concerns that the resulting participation declines could “hinder the program’s ability to improve the diet and overall health of all schoolchildren and potentially increase stigma in the cafeteria for low-income students.”
    • Recognizing problems with the Paid Lunch Equity requirement, USDA offered a temporary exemption to the rule for SFAs in strong financial standing.
  1. Provide program simplification.
  • Congress should permanently narrow Section 205 to apply only to SFAs with a negative fund balance.
  • As Congress drafts and USDA implements 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, prompt action must be taken to simplify child nutrition programs and ease administrative burdens on SFAs and State Agencies.
  • The overwhelming complexity of program regulations and administrative requirements is unnecessarily hindering efforts to better serve students.
  • For example, in its analysis of the implementation of the new nutrition standards, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found:

“In the 18 months from January 2012 — the month in which the final rule on the changes to the lunch content and nutrition standards was issued — through the end of school year 2012-2013, USDA issued 1,800 pages of guidance on these changes.”

  • GAO’s national survey revealed that “almost two-thirds of states” reported that “changes USDA made to its guidance on the lunch requirements were a very great challenge or extreme challenge…guidance changes were difficult to keep up with and led to increased confusion about the requirements.”

NEBRASKA SCHOOL NUTRITION ASSOCIATION Bylaws 2007 with proposed changes 2014


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