school lunch

School meals participation declined in 2022-23 school year

The number of students eating meals at school declined in 42 states and the District of Columbia during the first year since the expiration of pandemic-era waivers that allowed all students, regardless of family income, to eat for free. But eight states — all of which continued to serve meals for free to all, or used the Community Eligibility Provision to offer free meals at a significant number of schools — bucked the trend and reported increases in participation, according to a new report from the Food Research & Action Center.

Four rural districts win USDA school food awards

Rural school districts in Alaska, Iowa, Maine, and Ohio are winners of Healthy Meal Initiatives awards for improving the nutritional quality of meals served to students, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. Vilsack announced the awards during a speech to school food directors in which he said healthy school meals could combat the rising U.S. child obesity rate.

School food directors call for free meals for all students

Congress should offer free meals to all school students and increase the federal reimbursement for each meal that is served, said the School Nutrition Association on Tuesday, speaking for school food directors. "Research shows students eat their healthiest meals at school, and school nutrition programs need Congress' support to sustain that achievement," said SNA president Chris Derico.

House panel votes to add whole milk to school lunches

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.

SNA says now is not the time to raise school-meal standards

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 nutrition association calls for free school food for all students

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.

Why universal free school meals matter

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 passes universal school lunch

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.

From a meat-processing ban to free school lunch, food and ag are on the ballot

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. 

To end hunger, White House backs more free school meals and healthier food choices

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.

Will a state-level push for free school meals spur federal action?

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)

School lunch report: Shortages in supplies and labor

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.

Another increase in USDA reimbursements for school meals

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.

Senate ping-pongs school nutrition bill back to House for final approval

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.

Study: Cut beef, boost whole grains to make school lunches more sustainable

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.

Lawmakers agree on slimmed-down version of school nutrition waivers

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.

The pandemic increased hunger, but fewer kids are getting school meals

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

‘Now is the time’ to make school meals free for all kids, anti-hunger advocates say

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. 

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