Overriding nutritional guidelines, the House Education Committee approved, 26-13, a bill to allow schools to serve whole milk as part of the school lunch program. "For too long, milk has been demonized," said sponsor Rep. Glenn Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and a senior Republican on the Education panel.
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)
School meals should be free for all kids, regardless of their families' incomes, said the School Nutrition Association in a position paper released on Wednesday. Students have racked up $19.2 million in debt for meals they couldn't pay for since the waivers that made school meals universally free during the pandemic expired last spring, said the group.
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)
Colorado voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure to make free lunches available to all public school students. But voters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, rejected a proposed ban on new slaughterhouses, and California voted down a proposed tax on the ultra-wealthy to pay for electric vehicle programs and wildfire prevention.
In Tuesday's elections, voters will decide several ballot initiatives on food and agricultural issues, including a ban on meat processing facilities in a South Dakota city and the expansion of universal school lunch to Colorado. California voters will determine the fate of a tax on high income earners to pay for green energy and for fighting wildfires, which have cost the state’s agricultural sector tens of millions of dollars.
The Biden administration on Tuesday proposed panoramic action to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030, including a "pathway" to free school meals for all students, expansion of SNAP, development of front-of-package nutrition labels and a Medicare test of "food as medicine". The 44-page strategy was released ahead of the first White House hunger conference in half a century and when one in 10 American households was food insecure and millions of people suffered obesity and other diet-related illnesses.
When the government made school meals temporarily free to virtually all public school students in 2020, the intent was to buffer children and families from the spike in hunger and economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It also inadvertently turned out to be a pilot project for something anti-hunger groups had been pushing for years: making school food free, permanently, for all public school students, regardless of income. (No paywall)
With a new academic year on the horizon, K through 12 food directors are ready with tricks to keep meals flowing, such as cutting pizza boxes and clamshell containers in half when lunch trays are not available, said a report by the School Nutrition Association on Tuesday. "The supply chain crisis, labor shortages and high costs are a long-term reality for school meal programs," said SNA president Lori Adkins.
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 House and Senate passed different versions of a slimmed-down $3 billion extension of school nutrition waivers within hours of each other on Thursday, leaving to the House a final vote on the legislation on Friday. “I look forward to the president signing this into law,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow.
Reducing the amount of meat served in school lunches and increasing servings of whole grains could help reduce the National School Lunch Program’s environmental impact while expanding the market for foods produced in more ecologically friendly ways, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Communications Earth and Environment.
Congress would give schools an additional $3 billion to help them run meal programs this summer and during the next school year under an agreement announced by key lawmakers on Tuesday. The agreement would scale back the number of children who receive meals for free — at present, all of them do — and set reimbursement rates for meals at higher rates so schools can cope with rising food prices.
Despite a spike in food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic, school meals have “lost important ground” over the last two years, according to a new report from the Food Research & Action Center. The number of students regularly eating school lunches was 30.7 percent lower in the 2020-21 school year than in 2018-19, before the pandemic hit, according to the report. No paywall
All American public school children are currently able to get school meals for free, thanks to temporary waivers that allowed schools to serve free meals during the pandemic. And while those waivers are set to expire at the end of June, the pandemic has served as a trial run for making school meals permanently free for all students, regardless of income.
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)
The USDA would receive nearly $90 billion through the "build back better" bill to mitigate climate change, reduce the risk of wildfires, provide debt relief for economically distressed farmers, and encourage rural economic growth, said the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.