The Urban School Food Alliance of 17 of the largest U.S. school districts will provide training to districts across the country on how to purchase high-quality food while keeping costs low, said the Agriculture Department on Wednesday.
Food activists released an extensive report on Tuesday showing how reforms in the public food procurement process — from schools to hospitals to municipal governments — could shift the nation's food system and advance food justice policies. The extensive report from the Food Chain Workers Alliance and the HEAL Food Alliance assessed the results of their Good Food Purchasing Program, an ambitious effort by a scrappy network that has helped secure more than $540 million in public contracts. No paywall
High food prices and a rollback of pandemic aids drove a significant increase in food insecurity last year, according to a survey by the Urban Institute that was published Tuesday. Some 24.6 percent of adults surveyed reported experiencing food insecurity in 2022, up from 20 percent in 2021. (No paywall)
A month after the USDA proposed new rules to make school meals healthier, hundreds of school nutrition directors will come to Washington next week to tell lawmakers to reject the stricter standards. The School Nutrition Association, which represents school food workers nationwide, argues that stricter rules will be difficult for schools to meet, as they still face labor shortages and supply chain disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the avian flu epidemic. (No paywall)
Public schools would face their first-ever limit on sugar in the food they serve in their cafeterias as part of an Agriculture Department proposal for healthier meals. The USDA package called for a staggered phase-in of new standards on sugar, sodium, whole grains and flavored milk, but was criticized as costly and unworkable by school food directors.
For the first two years of the pandemic, there was such a thing as a free lunch — for public school kids, at least. To blunt a spike in hunger caused by job losses and school closures, the federal government made school meals free, even available as ‘grab and go,’ for virtually all children. But Republicans blocked a renewal of the program last spring, accusing Democrats of exploiting emergency measures to enact lasting changes. (No paywall)
Far more people on social media support free meals for all public school students than oppose it, 43 percent vs. 3 percent, according to an analysis by Impact Social, an online monitoring company, in collaboration with the food policy publication Food Fix.
Responding to food inflation, the Agriculture Department said it would increase reimbursements to schools by about $1.3 billion for meals served during the 2022/23 academic year compared to the past school year. Schools would receive an additional $3 billion under a school nutrition bill passed by Congress last month.
The Biden administration said it would provide an additional $943 million in USDA funds to schools so they can purchase American-grown food for their meal programs.
Before leaving Washington for summit meetings in Europe, President Biden signed into law a $3-billion extension of school nutrition waivers. Proponents said the extension would prevent "a summer hunger crisis" and called for Congress to expand the school food program, rather than limit access.
Summer is always the hungry season for America’s children — when school is not in session, many students don’t get enough to eat. But anti-hunger groups are warning this summer could be worse than usual, since many schools have been forced to scale back or eliminate their summer meals programs because the waivers that vastly expanded access to school food during the pandemic are set to expire on June 30, unless Congress takes action.(No paywall)
Congress should allow an additional year of federal waivers that make all children eligible for free meals at public schools, said nearly 2,000 anti-hunger, medical, religious and farm groups on Monday. The waivers are scheduled to expire on June 30 but the pandemic is far from over, said the groups in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
Congress should revise child nutrition programs so that all students are eligible for free meals at school, said the School Nutrition Association in a position paper released on Tuesday. The group, which speaks on behalf of school food directors, also called for higher reimbursement rates for each lunch and breakfast served.
An adjustment in reimbursement rates for school meals will put an additional $750 million into child nutrition programs that were expected to cost $27 billion this year, said the Agriculture Department. The adjustment came three weeks after the USDA said up to 100,000 schools would get a share of $1.5 billion dedicated to easing the impact of supply chain disruptions and the pandemic on school meals.
Next fall, the Biden administration will propose new nutrition standards for school meals, the the first attempt to strengthen the rules since 2012. Health advocates are already starting to make their wish lists known—further lowering sodium, making meals more nutritious and, for the first time ever, capping the amount of added sugar in food served to students. (No paywall)
Up to 100,000 schools will get a share of $1.5 billion intended to ease the impact of supply chain disruptions and the pandemic on school lunch and other school meals, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
School food directors overwhelmingly say they have trouble acquiring nutritious foods and meal supplies due to supply chain disruptions, according to a survey released by the School Nutrition Association (SNA) on Wednesday. The SNA said the results underscored the need for regulatory relief and increased funding from the USDA for the upcoming 2022/23 school year.
Federal waivers that allowed schools to hand out "grab and go" meals to students, and that made meals free to all students, were powerful tools in blunting the impact of the pandemic on food insecurity among children, said USDA economists. Although the number of school meals declined 17 percent in fiscal 2020, because of the waivers 1.7 billion meals were served from March-May 2020 "that may have otherwise not been distributed," they said in a Covid-19 working paper.
Three Southern states — Virginia, Kentucky and Arkansas — are among the eight states nationwide with the lowest SNAP participation rates, says the Food Research and Action Center. The coronavirus pandemic "is exacerbating the already alarming rates of food insecurity in the Southern region," said a FRAC report that recommends expansion of federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP, WIC and school meals, to meet the need.