SOURCE: School Nutrition Association

February 26, 2008 09:06 ET

School Nutrition Experts Call for Child Nutrition Funding and Uniform Nutrition Standards

ALEXANDRIA, VA--(Marketwire - February 26, 2008) - Early next month, more than 700 school nutrition professionals will discuss the crisis in funding for school meal programs and urge Congress to require science-based, yet practical, uniform national school nutrition standards to govern the sale of all foods and beverages available during the school day. The School Nutrition Association's (SNA) 36th annual Legislative Action Conference in Washington, DC, March 2-5, 2008, will bring together school nutrition directors and supervisors, nutritionists, state child nutrition directors and foodservice industry representatives.

The emphasis on nutrition standards will build from efforts related to the drafting of the Farm Bill last year. This year however, as the national economic picture becomes more uncertain, school nutrition professionals will also provide lawmakers with the facts on school meal costs. The child nutrition programs are both under pressure to serve nutritious meals to more low-income children and being pinched by increased food, labor and milk costs.

"The federal government currently reimburses schools $2.47 for each balanced, healthy meal provided to children from families making 130% of the poverty level or less. A latte costs more. This is not adequate to cover the cost of producing a school meal," said Mary Hill, SNS, president of SNA. The costs of food, transportation, labor and benefits, training, equipment and indirect expenses, are all increasing rapidly and meal charges as well as federal, state and local financial support for the child nutrition programs have not kept pace.

The key legislative issues the School Nutrition Association (SNA) is advocating for this year are:

--  Giving the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to regulate and
    enforce the sale of food and beverages outside of the cafeteria.
--  Requiring all a la carte and competitive food sales to be consistent
    with the Dietary Guidelines, as is required for school meals.
--  Requiring national uniformity for the school meal pattern throughout
    the country. Children in all states and local districts need the same
    nutrients to grow and be healthy. The current lack of uniformity is
    increasing the cost of the programs.
--  In the face of record food, labor and milk process, calling for
    adequate funding to support healthful meals being offered through school
    nutrition programs.

Activities of the 36th annual Legislative Action Conference at the J.W. Marriot Hotel in Washington, DC will also include:

--  Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chair, Tom Harkin
    (D-Iowa), and Ranking Member, Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), as well as House
    Agriculture Committee Chair, Colin Peterson (D-Minn.). Noted political
    commentator Amy Walter will give the opening keynote address.
--  Panel discussions will include SNA's 2008 legislative priorities,
    perspectives on the need for national nutrition standards, the school
    nutrition funding crisis and an update on child nutrition activities from
    the USDA.
--  SNA members will take their message to Capitol Hill, sharing the
    nutritional value of school meals and the need for key policy changes with
    members of Congress on March 4, 2008.
--  On Tuesday, March 4, 2008, SNA president Mary Hill, SNS is scheduled
    to testify at a hearing held by the Healthy Families and Communities
    Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
--  The Global Child Nutrition Foundation and SNA will honor the Executive
    Director of the Congressional Hunger Center, Ed Cooney, with the 2008 Gene
    White Lifetime Achievement Award at the "A Possible Dream Gala" on Tuesday
    evening, March 4, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade
    Center.  Other award recipients will be Geri Dee, SNS, 2007 Outstanding
    School Nutrition Director of the Year and Mimi Ford, 2007 Individual
    Industry Member of the Year.  Proceeds from the evening will benefit the
    Global Child Nutrition Foundation's initiatives to promote sustainable
    school feeding programs worldwide.

The School Nutrition Association is a national, non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. The Association and its members are dedicated to feeding children safe and nutritious meals. SNA is the only association devoted exclusively to protecting and enhancing children's health and well being through school meals and sound nutrition education.

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