On Wednesday, May 24, USDA Secretary Perdue appeared before the House Appropriation Subcommittee on Agriculture to testify in regards to the Trump Administration’s recent budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 and SNA staff was there to cover it.
The meeting kicked off with subcommittee Chairman Rep. Aderholt (R-AL-4) commending Secretary Perdue for his approach to school meal nutrition standards. Aderholt pointed out that food waste was up while school meal participation was down, and that there was a need to find balance in the lunchroom. Perdue noted that the perception of his move was that it was unwinding nutrition standards, but he wanted to make it clear that they were simply taking pause and evaluating what was going on in cafeterias.
Perdue states that: “I have found that school nutrition professionals are some of the most respected people in the schools and some of the most beloved…. As we know many of our students, that’s the most basic meal they get, their school breakfast and lunch.” He goes on to say: “My strategy is to listen to those people who know best and are closest to the issue and how we can give them the flexibility to provide nutritious healthy meals in a way that doesn’t constrain them.”
Aderholt reiterated that, “School lunch personnel want to provide healthy meals to the kids; we need to be taking into consideration their perspective on the issues.” Watch a clip of this exchange on the School Nutrition Association Action Network.
Most Representatives on the subcommittee had concerns about the Trump Administration’s proposed budget, which calls for cuts to the Department of Agriculture budget by 19% and zeroes out funding for certain programs, and the themes of the questioning surrounded crop insurance, rural development, market access and SNAP. Though Perdue defended the budget for the most part, he reminded lawmakers that the 2018 farm bill will be the vehicle by which Congress can set policy on SNAP and crop insurance, and also agreed with Aderholt that the Food for Peace program, which is on the budget’s chopping block, serves a humanitarian mission while supporting Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” policy. Secretary Perdue and the House Appropriation Subcommittee on Agriculture certainly have their work cut out for them, but were hopeful that they would be able to work together to ensure success.