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Committees Urge Secretary Vilsack to Establish Waiver Process to Help Schools Implement New Nutrition Standards

Dear Mr. Secretary,

We are pleased that President Obama has signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2014, P.L. 113-76. This legislation provides USDA with funding for vital programs and also provides directives that clearly state congressional intent in the implementation of various programs. We want to call your immediate attention to the congressional directive that USDA establish a waiver process that will provide local schools with an option to delay implementing the new nutrition standards contained in the school breakfast and/or the competitive foods regulations if these regulations are proving too costly. Since the directive requires the process to be completed within 90 days of enactment, we expect that schools would have this option available to them by April 17, 2014.

We have heard from schools nationwide that are struggling to implement the new standards for the National School Lunch Program. Schools have found the requirements burdensome and costly, students are not eating the foods and therefore participation is down, and staff training has been challenging. While schools are still trying to adjust to the new standards for lunch, USDA is requiring them to comply with the changes for school breakfast, and the competitive foods rule becomes effective for the 2014-15 school year. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing last summer during which school food directors testified to this point, and the Government Accountability Office testified about the issues they heard about the rules.

To read the full letter, click here.