Legislative Updates

Comment Request on SBP Record Collection

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has posted notification of request for comments on their proposed School Breakfast Program record collection. USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) requires States, SFAs and schools to keep accounts and records as may be necessary to determine whether the program is in compliance. SFAs collect information and provide it to their State agencies who in turn report back to FNS. Comments are invited on whether the collection of information is necessary and efficient and can be sent to Desk Officer for Agriculture, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), [email protected], or faxed to (202) 395-5806 and are due by September 30, 2015.

USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines Communications

The USDA is asking for your input on how to better inform the public about its upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines. In this Federal Register notice, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion requests permission from the Office of Management and Budget for this information collection and asks the public for commentary on whether the proposed collection of information is necessary and effective. Information collected will be used to further develop the Dietary Guidelines and related communications. Comments may be sent to Dietary Guidelines Communications, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 3101 Park Center Drive, Room 1034, Alexandria, VA 22302, or through www.regulations.gov. All comments are due by October 23, 2015. 

Federal Register Notice: New NSLP, SBP, and CACFP Reimbursement Rates and Donated Foods Value

The USDA has released new reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). The USDA also released the new value of USDA donated foods. The new rates apply to School Year 2015-16 and are effective July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. Click on the links to see the exact rate adjustments. 

Traditional Foods in Child Nutrition Programs

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) understands the importance of serving traditional foods and encourages Indian Tribal Organizations, along with all operators of CNPs, to source locally grown and raised foods. The purpose of this memorandum is to clarify that traditional foods may be served in CNPs and to provide examples of how several traditional foods may contribute towards a reimbursable meal.

New Edition of Eligibility Manual for School Meals

In this memorandum, the USDA announced the release of the July 2015 version of the Eligibility Manual for School Meals. Major changes and clarifications are highlighted throughout the manual. The USDA provides an un-highlighted and highlighted version of the eligibility manual. Consistent with previous years, the highlighted version will be removed after three months and the un-highlighted version will remain available for use.

Q&A's for the Professional Standards Final Rule

This memorandum contains Q&A in follow up to the Professional Standards final rule published on March 2, 2015. For more guidance on planning training for school nutrition operators, download SNA's newly updated Professional Standards Training Guidelines. SNA will continue to keep you apprised of updates on USDA Professional Standards. 

Q&A's for NSLP's Summer Seamless Option

On June 1, USDA posted a Federal Register notice inviting comments on a proposed record collection for the National Hunger Clearinghouse. The USDA National Hunger Clearinghouse is run in partnership with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH). It serves as a repository database of non-governmental, grassroots organizations that work in hunger and nutrition issues and provides their contact information. These organizations enter their information into the database then Clearinghouse staff use this to provide the public with locations of food assistance sites. The database form can be completed online at www.nhc.fns.usda.gov and physical versions of the form can be completed and emailed to [email protected].

Comments are invited on ways to enhance the proposed information collection and are due before July 31, 2015. Comments may be submitted by visiting www.regulations.gov.

Individuals and families seeking assistance in finding food can reach the National Hunger Clearinghouse at 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-HAMRE to speak with a Clearinghouse representative. 

Federal Register Notice: National Hunger Clearinghouse Proposed Information Collection

On June 1, USDA posted a Federal Register notice inviting comments on a proposed record collection for the National Hunger Clearinghouse. The USDA National Hunger Clearinghouse is run in partnership with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH). It serves as a repository database of non-governmental, grassroots organizations that work in hunger and nutrition issues and provides their contact information. These organizations enter their information into the database then Clearinghouse staff use this to provide the public with locations of food assistance sites. The database form can be completed online at www.nhc.fns.usda.gov and physical versions of the form can be completed and emailed to [email protected].

Comments are invited on ways to enhance the proposed information collection and are due before July 31, 2015. Comments may be submitted by visiting www.regulations.gov.

Individuals and families seeking assistance in finding food can reach the National Hunger Clearinghouse at 1-866-3-Hungry or 1-877-8-HAMRE to speak with a Clearinghouse representative. 

Correction to Professional Standards Proposed Final Rule

USDA has published technical corrections to the Professional Standards final rule. Specifically, the final rule omitted part of a criterion from the hiring standards for local agencies with 2,499 or fewer enrolled. This corrects the oversight by providing missing text and summary in the chart. It also makes a technical correction to ensure readers clearly understand the annual training standards for school nutrition program directors. All other information in the final rule remains unchanged. 

Updated Title I and CEP Guidance

There is a connection between CEP and programs operated under Title I, Part A (Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, because State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) often use NSLP data to carry out certain Title I requirements. The Department of Education's (ED) most recent guidance on the connection between Title I and CEP was published in January 2014. Since that time, ED has received some additional questions about CEP. This updated guidance and attachment addresses those questions.

Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program: Allocation of Funds for School Year 2015-2016

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) operates in selected elementary schools in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The purpose of this memorandum is to provide funding allocation amounts for all State agencies for school year (SY) 2015-2016, to provide information on funding requirements and deadlines, and to serve as a reminder of important program requirements.

Child Nutrition Programs Income Eligibility Guidelines

Adjusted eligibility guidelines to free and reduced price meals and free milk for the period from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016 have been posted. The typical annual income limit for a family of four to qualify for reduced-price meals in the next school year is $44,863 (although that number is higher in Alaska and Hawaii), up $740 from last year. The annual adjustments are intended to direct benefits to those children most in need and are revised annually to account for changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Smart Snack Guidance Q&A's

The USDA has posted a third series of Smart Snacks Q & A's on the interim final rule. Updated or new questions contain information on are identified with asterisks. Click here to read the Q&As.

Guidance on Prohibition of Separation by Gender

This memorandum explains the prohibition on separation by gender during Child Nutrition Program meal service and outlines select circumstances under which gender-based separation may be permissible.

Q&A's: Use of SAE Finds and SA Funds for Farm To School

This USDA memo clarifies that state agencies can use their state administrative expense funds for state-level coordination of farm to school activities. This guidance applies to the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and Food Distribution Programs that provide USDA Foods to applicable programs.

Administrative Review Process Regarding CN Labels

This USDA memorandum provides State agencies and Child Nutrition Program operators, additional information on the Administrative Review process regarding the Child Nutrition (CN) Labels, Watermarked CN Labels, and Manufacturers Product Formulation Statement (PFS). Need more information on Watermarked CN Labels? Click here to read USDA clarification.

NSLP Equipment Assistance Grants for SFAs

The purpose of this memorandum is to distribute funding allocations in the amount of $25 million provided by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Act to State agencies that will competitively award equipment assistance grants to eligible school food authorities (SFAs) participating in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Attachments found here provide guidance on the specific terms and conditions, period of performance, timelines, funding goals, and reporting requirements for these grants.

CEP Requirements and Deadline Extension

The USDA has extended the deadline to opt in to community eligibility for SY 2015-2016. For some LEAs, the decision process to elect to participate depends on approval of governing bodies with administrative control of LEAs. Additionally, LEAs may seek support of various partners and stakeholders. In light of this unique decision process, the USDA's FNS is extending the election deadline until August 31, 2015. Click here to read the memo announcing the deadline extension. Click here to read detailed information on fulfilling the CEP notification and publication requirements for State Agencies and LEAs.

Paid Lunch Price Data for SY 2012-13 and 2013-14

This memo announces the publication of the paid lunch prices for SFAs participating in the National School Lunch Program for SY 2012-2013 and SY 2013-2014. The complete lists of prices can be found in attachment 1 and attachment 2. State agencies are asked to distribute this information to their program operators as soon as possible.

FY2015 Reallocation of SAE Funds in CN Programs

This memorandum and its attachments provide the information needed to conduct the FY2015 reallocation of SAE funds. Reallocation is a formal process by which State agencies can: (1) request additional SAE funds above their initial authorized funding level; or (2) return SAE funds they do not need. Click here to read the memo.

National Procurement Training for Child Nutrition Programs

The FNS' Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) is hosting three National Procurement Trainings. The training will provide State agency personnel with the opportunity to receive current information on procurement regulations required in all CNPs, as well as current information on the new Office of Management and Budget Super Circulars in 2 CFR Part 200. The training will be conducted in a train-the-trainer format for State agency personnel to receive training concepts and materials that may be incorporated in training State review personnel, as well as school food authorities (SFAs). Click here to see a draft agenda.

Paid Lunch Equity: SY 2015-16 Calculations and Tool

This memorandum provides guidance on the calculations SFAs must make in order to ensure they are in compliance with these requirements for SY 2015-16. In addition, the SY 2015-16 Paid Lunch Equity tool to assist SFAs as they make these required calculations is attached to this memorandum.

CEP: Guidance and Updated Q&As

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) allows Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) in high-poverty areas to offer free school breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost. CEP can provide numerous benefits to LEAs, including substantial administrative savings from the elimination of household applications for free and reduced price meals, streamlined meal service operations, higher student participation and more opportunities for children to receive nutrition necessary to optimize academic achievement. CEP may be implemented in individual schools, groups of schools, or in entire school districts. Click here for updated Guidance and Q&A's.

2015 Omnibus Language Addresses Several SNA Asks Including Sodium and Whole Grain

Congress released the full text of the Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. SNA was pleased to see several of our key issues addressed in the language that will provide schools greater flexibility to plan healthy school meals that students will eat. Congress is expected to vote on the Omnibus bill this week and we ask you to urge your Congressional delegation to vote yes on the bill.

The key sections in the legislation and how they will impact SNA members are:

  • Sodium - suspends further sodium reductions for "meals, foods, and snacks sold in schools" until there is further scientific research that shows a benefit to children.
  • Whole Grains - USDA shall allow states to grant exemptions on the 100% whole grain rich requirement should an SFA demonstrate hardship, including financial, procurement, and student acceptability. Qualifying SFAs will be permitted to meet the July 2012 mandate that half of grains offered be whole grain rich. This provides a vehicle allowing states and schools to work together on flexibility for those schools struggling with this particular issue.
  • Equipment grants - provides $25 million in additional equipment grants to be distributed by the State Agencies. These funds are available to all schools regardless of free and reduced percentage.
  • Chinese Chicken - schools will not be able to purchase chicken from China for use in the NSLP and SBP program.

What the legislation does not include is the one year waiver for schools with a net loss for six months or more.

The accompanying report language, which acts as guidance for the legislation, directs the Secretary to use the authority under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to allow States to vary the frequency of monitoring and compliance reviews of each school food authority based on past school performance, with no cycle extending more than five years. The report language also urges USDA to work to ensure there are no "unintended consequences" when implementing Professional Standards.

We thank our members for all of their help in contacting their Members of Congress over the past year to explain the impact of the well-intended regulations. SNA will continue to advocate for all of our Members in the coming year as we turn our attention to the Child Nutrition Reauthorization 2015 effort. 

Proposed Rule on Wellness Policies is Announced

Comment period has ended.

Legislative Resources and Letter Example

Over 900 School Nutrition professionals attended the Annual School Nutrition Legislative Action Conference in Washington. Many attendees felt this was a great conference, but more needs to be done to reach out to legislators and inform them about school nutrition programs. Consider writing a letter to your legislature, sharing your experiences with the new regulations. Below are two links, the first one is a sample letter and the second is a PowerPoint to use as a resource.

Web Link To Find Legislative Districts

Do you know your legislative districts?  If not, click here to take you to a website that will tell you your district.