On July 20, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published the results from its "Study of Nonresponse to the School Meals Application Verification Process." It was an in-depth case study that used data from a sample of 20 large school districts in 8 different metropolitan areas. This study was meant to examine the accuracy of the current verification process, current district practices when verifying applications, and the ultimate verification process results, including why households do not respond to verification requests and how many families reapply. Read the full report.
Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) introduced H.R. 4344, the Salad Bars in Schools Expansion Act. This bill requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish and implement a five-year program of competitive grants to promote the use of salad bars in schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This legislation directs USDA to grant priority to those schools where at least 50% of the students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches or located in food deserts. Read Congresswoman Wilson's full press release.
On July 16, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its annual adjustments to 2021-22 School Year (SY) reimbursement rates for the National School Lunch Program, Special Milk, School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the Child and Adult Care (CACFP). In school food authorities that served less than 60% free and reduced-price lunches in School Year (SY) 2019-2020, the payments for meals served are Contiguous States—paid rate—$.035 ($0.02 increase), free and reduced-price rate—35 cents ($0.02 increase), maximum rate—$0.43 ($0.02 increase). Overall, reimbursement rates this year for the NSLP, SBP and the SMP either remained the same or increased compared to last year, and these rates are effective through June 30, 2022.
In addition, this notice included a special note that stated, "in lieu of the reimbursement rates for School Food Authorities (SFA) operating the NSLP SSO under FNS issued nationwide waivers #85 (Nationwide Waiver to Allow the SSO through School Year 2021-2022) and #86 (Nationwide Waiver to Allow SFSP Reimbursement Rates in School Year 2021-2022), the SFSP reimbursement rates will similarly be updated effective Jan. 1, 2022, through a future notice published in the Federal Register.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it's awarding a record-breaking $12 million in Farm to School Grants for FY 2021. Farm to School Grants help to expand the access to fresh, local foods and hands-on agricultural learning for children across 45 states and the District of Columbia. The awarded projects will serve more than 1.4 million students at more than 6,800 schools. Read USDA's full press release.
On July 15, USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published the 2019 Farm to School Census, a nationwide survey of school food authorities (SFAs) that collects information on the scope of farm to school activity and the overall impact of farm to school efforts. The 2019 results come from 12,634 responding School Food Authorities (SFAs) in all 50 states, U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. The census determined that nearly two-thirds (65%) of school districts or local entities responsible for school meals participated in Farm to School activities during the 2018-2019 school year, and more than half (57%) began within the past three years. Read the full report here.
On July 9, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the updated COVID-19 Guidance for Operating Early Care and Education/Childcare Programs. This guidance focuses on helping those administering school nutrition programs, Early Care and Education (ECE) programs, and state and local health officials to support safe in-person learning. The CDC used the latest research from the Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in K-12 Schools and Early Care and Education Programs to create this new guidance.
On July 8, the School Nutrition Association (SNA) published its latest analysis of the Back-to-School 2021 Survey, highlighting critical issues for school meal programs such as pandemic supply chain disruptions, nutrition standards, staff shortages and meal participation. This survey includes responses from 1,368 school meal program directors nationwide, revealing severe financial and operational challenges for the upcoming school year and grave concerns regarding the impact of future sodium regulations.
Survey respondents noted significant benefits associated with free meal service since USDA extended essential COVID-19 waivers through School Year (SY) 2021/2022, including the option for schools to offer free meals to all students. A large majority of responses reported increases in student access to meals, meal participation rates, and equity among students, along with decreases in unpaid meal debt for families and stigma for low-income students. SNA is continuing to urge Congress to permanently offer free school meals for all students to support learning. Read SNA's full press release.
On July 7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) responded to SNA's comment on the Federal Register notice, "School Meals Operations Study: Evaluation of the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Waivers and Child Nutrition Programs," published on April 21, 2021. This notice sought input from State Agencies and School Food Authorities (SFAs) on the continued use and effectiveness of COVID-19 waivers. FNS's response acknowledges the significant impact COVID-19 has had on school nutrition operations and states that any future data collection will include web surveys for SFAs and Child Nutrition Directors to help States fulfill statutory reporting requirements. Read FNS's full response.
USDA's Food and Nutrition (FNS) released the report, "Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program State Implementation Progress Report to Congress SY 2017-2018 and SY 2018-2019." This report assesses the effectiveness of state and local efforts to directly certify children for free school meals. This report found that 40 states met or exceeded the required 95% direct certification rate benchmark for the 2018-2019 school year. Read the final report here.
On June 30, SNA sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack concerning the recent announcement from the national distributor U.S. Foods on the cancellation of school food contracts. School districts in Florida, Kansas and Pennsylvania that had contracts with U.S. Foods were notified that "due to labor shortages and warehouse capacity," the company will no longer serve their school meal programs for the 2021-22 school year. In this letter, SNA illustrated the dire situation that these school districts face trying to find a distributor to supply food for their meals programs. The letter also conveys SNA's ongoing concern that other school districts may continue to be impacted and the potential for more widespread disruptions in the supply chain. Read SNA's full letter.