School food programs rely on USDA pandemic waivers
Nine out of every 10 schools are providing meals for free to all students under USDA waivers that are an unexpected issue in congressional budget negotiations this week. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is a strong opponent of extending the waivers, issued to help schools cope with the pandemic, into the 2022-23 school year.
School Nutrition Association says go slow on nutrition overhaul
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)
Stepping ahead of Biden, progressives propose free school meals for all
More than three dozen Democrats in the House and Senate proposed a dramatic expansion of U.S. spending on school meals to provide free meals for all students, not just low-income children. "What we've seen during this pandemic is that a universal approach to school meals works," said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a lead sponsor. "We cannot go backwards."
USDA extends waivers on school food program that feeds hungry kids
The Agriculture Department on Tuesday extended waivers to help school meal programs and childcare institutions provide kids with healthy food, as schools eye a return to in-person learning by fall 2021. Critically, the Department announced that these measures on meal services will remain in place through June 30, 2022.
Free meals proposed for all students
Congress should permanantly expand the school food program so that all public school students can eat breakfast and lunch for free, said the School Nutrition Association on Tuesday. The association said many school food directors expect to run a deficit this school year because of school closures and the higher cost of preparing and serving meals during the pandemic.
In abrupt reversal, USDA extends summer school food waivers
In a sudden reversal, the Department of Agriculture announced Monday that it would extend school meal waivers through Dec. 30—less than a week after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had said the programs would lapse by Sept. 30. The shift came amid an outcry from advocates and lawmakers from both parties, who argued that Perdue’s refusal to extend key waivers and flexibilities around free summer meals would worsen record levels of child hunger. (No paywall)
Advocates implore Congress to increase spending on anti-hunger programs
In a largely positive review of government programs to address mounting hunger during Covid-19, a panel of experts and advocates speaking at the National Food Security Conference on Wednesday encouraged Congress to boost spending on the anti-hunger programs it has developed since the pandemic began. (No paywall)
Judge voids USDA move to water down school nutrition rules
The Trump administration's decision to delay and dilute rules calling for less sodium and more whole grains in school meals was overturned by a federal judge in Maryland, said the nonprofit legal organization Democracy Forward on Monday. "Our victory ensures that school lunches will be healthier for 30 million children," said the group on social media.
USDA will help ‘keep the kids fed’ during Covid-19, says Perdue
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told school food directors on Monday the government will help them continue feeding children if schools are closed due to Covid-19. “If schools are closed, we are going to do our very best to see you all have the tools you need to keep the kids fed,” he said at a School Nutrition Association conference.
Number of low-income children eating school breakfast hits plateau
After years of increases, the number of low-income children eating free or reduced-price breakfast at school plateaued at 12.4 million during the 2018-19 school year, said the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group.
Where Perdue sees ‘flexibility’ in school food, critics see junk food
On his sixth day on the job in 2017, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made chocolate milk safe for schools again, along with white flour and salt, in the name of regulatory flexibility. Those revisions to the school food program became final in late 2018. The USDA will propose a new round of "common-sense flexibility" for school meals this week, says Perdue. Skeptics said it will mean more pizza, burgers and fries and fewer servings of fruits and vegetables.
‘Kids eat local’ bills may be part of child nutrition overhaul
Companion bills introduced in the House and Senate would make it easier for schools to buy locally produced foods to serve to their students, said sponsors on Thursday.
How Oakland became a leader in cutting school food waste
Among the 40 percent of all food thrown out is this statistic: America’s school lunch programs waste $5 million in food every day. FERN’s latest story, published with Grist, focuses on Nancy Deming of the Oakland Unified School District, a leader in the movement to cut school food waste and redirect the food to students and people in need. Here’s the main take-aways:
Dinner at school is a growing option for U.S. students
Compared to the long-established school lunch program, after-school programs that provide snacks or supper to pupils are tiny. In fact, just 1.2 million suppers, versus 30 million lunches, are served in school each day.
Food company coaches schools on ‘whole-grain waiver strategy’
A food service management company that operates in 600 U.S. school districts is offering them, in the words of its vice president for nutrition, “instructions” on how to get a waiver from the USDA requirement to serve whole-grain-rich bread, pasta, and baked goods to their students, said The Lunch Tray.
USDA to extend ‘flexibilities’ for school food, maybe for years
In a Federal Register notice today, the USDA announced it will extend its “three flexibilities” for school menus — salt, whole grains, and flavored milk — into the 2018/19 school year. It will also invite comment on the “long-term availability of the flexibilities,” which Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue introduced at an elementary school on his sixth day in office.
Alliance declares 323 schools as America’s healthiest, based on meals and exercise
The anti-obesity Alliance for a Healthier Generation named 323 schools across the country as "America's healthiest schools," based on offering healthy school meals and ensuring physical activity each day. Nearly half of the schools were from Texas, California, Georgia and Arizona. "Schools earned the distinction by successfully meeting a rigorous set of criteria for serving healthier meals and snacks, getting students moving more, offering high-quality physical and health education, and empowering school leaders to become healthy role models," said the alliance.
Chocolate flavor not a deal-breaker for milk consumption at school
On his sixth day on the job, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, in the name of regulatory flexibility and making school meals more attractive to students, gave schools the green light to serve chocolate milk again. A new study suggests, however, that over time, schoolchildren do not miss flavored milk all that much.
USDA slowdown of school lunch rules ‘says that we listened’ — Perdue
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue mixed humor, keen political rhetoric and "a fiercely unapologetic tone" as he explained why he ordered a slow down in USDA school food rules in one of his first decisions in office, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Perdue defended the decision during a speech to the School Nutrition Association, which represents school food directors.