In what is likely to be a longshot, the School Nutrition Association is asking Congress for 35 cents per meal more in reimbursements as lawmakers consider child nutrition reauthorization legislation.
 
The National Harbor, Md.-based association released its 2016 position paper on Feb. 10, and the priority is more funding for school meals. The association also asked for the 35-cent increase to the federal reimbursement rate last year, and this year added a request for 10 cents in commodity support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school breakfasts.
 
“It’s time for Congress to invest in the healthy meals that kids deserve,” said Diane Pratt-Heavner, director of media relations for the association.
 
The association’s request for more funding may be viewed as a way to overcome the challenges of serving the half-cup of fruits and vegetables in school meals and other nutrition standards, said Tracy Fox, president of Food, Nutrition and Policy Consultants, Washington, D.C. However, Fox said the 35-cent goal — multiplied by 30 million meals served to students each day — will be virtually impossible.
 
The Senate Agriculture Committee has completed work on child nutrition reauthorization, but the House Education and Workforce Committee has not indicated when it will consider the issue. 
 
Half-a-cup
 
Last year. the associaton position wanted school districts to have the choice on whether students would be required to take a half a cup of fruits or vegetables as part of a reimbursable meal. That recommendation was dropped in the 2016 position paper. 
 
Pratt-Heavner said the association dropped that issue because the association is supporting the Senate’s child nutrition bill, which doesn’t include the opt-out provision. The bill calls on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the USDA to provide guidance to local food safety inspectors and other agencies on salad bars and “sharing table” to limit waste and increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. Sharing tables allow students to put produce they don’t want on a table for other students.
 
“It limits the amount of food you see thrown in the trash because it allows kids to share,” she said. Some school districts allow fruits and vegetables that remain on the table to be donated to food banks.
 
The 2016 association position paper is available online