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A Bill That Delivers for School Nutrition Professionals

Helping children access healthy meals has long been a national priority. With that important goal in mind, Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans worked with numerous organizations—including those representing school leaders and school nutrition professionals—to develop a legislative proposal that will improve child nutrition programs. The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003) includes a number of commonsense measures that will give schools the flexibility and assistance they need to better serve their students.

That’s why it’s so troubling to see critics turning this effort into a partisan food fight and choosing to ignore the bill’s many positive reforms. In fact, one group, the School Nutrition Association (SNA), now opposes the legislation after the inclusion of a limited pilot program that would only affect up to three states. Even more baffling is their decision to oppose the bill despite the fact that it addresses many of their priorities, including:

 

  • SNA Priority: “Simplify regulations and provide flexibility to maximize efficiency and ease administrative burdens.”

    ✔ H.R. 5003: Reduces administrative burdens and eliminates duplicative mandates to allow school leaders and nutritional professionals to focus on better meeting the needs of their students.

  • SNA Priority: “Swiftly pass a robust Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, including [an] agreement on school meal standards” that “preserves strong nutrition standards and provides school meal programs flexibility to plan healthy menus that appeal to students.”

    ✔ H.R. 5003: Ensures federal nutrition standards will reflect the input of school leaders, meet the needs of all students, and are based on sound science.

  • SNA Priority: “Congress must increase the federal reimbursement rates so schools can afford to meet the new regulations.”

    ✔ H.R. 5003: Raises the reimbursement rates for the school breakfast program for the first time in more than 25 years. It will also ensure changes to federal child nutrition requirements do not increase costs for schools.

  • SNA Priority: “Allow all food items that are permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as an a la carte item.”

    ✔ H.R. 5003: Allows all foods that qualify to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to also be served in a la carte lines, making it easier for school officials to plan school meals.

 
And the list goes on … In the words of Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN):
 

These are just some of the reforms that the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act will make, but they—along with others in the bill—are positive, commonsense solutions that we should support. These solutions will ensure schools are able to serve their students and families and that they’re able to serve them well.

 
SNA’s opposition is exactly the kind of short-sighted advocacy that led the organization to support a massive expansion of the federal role in school nutrition that has made it harder and more costly for their members to serve students healthy meals.

There is only one bill in Congress that provides the flexibility and additional support school nutrition professionals have requested, and it’s the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016.
 

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