School nutrition directors call ‘Keep Kids Fed Act’ disappointing, misleading


The School Nutrition Association said it welcomed the passage of The Keep Kids Fed Act. The bipartisan compromise bill is meant to support school meal programs when federal pandemic waivers expire on June 30. However, as the SNA points out, during Senate consideration of the bill, a key provision to provide free meals to students eligible for reduced-price meals was removed.”It is helpful and we are thankful. But we are still concerned that it’s a bit of a Band-Aid,” said Sherri Parks, who is the nutrition director for Surry County Schools. “We’re a little disappointed because we’re still looking at supply chain issues, not having the food and supplies we need, and we’re still looking at our labor cost going up 20 to 30%.”Parks has been part of this coalition of school nutrition directors, trying to persuade Congress to continue its pandemic program of free meals for students, no matter their family’s income. She said this bill is better than nothing, as they’ll still get increased federal reimbursements for every school lunch by 40 cents and every school breakfast by 15 cents through School Year 2022/23, which is above the annual inflationary adjustment scheduled for July 1. The no-cost waivers are also technically extended, including those for schools unable to meet nutrition standards due to supply chain disruptions and to reduce administrative and reporting burdens The issue with the extension of 2022 summer meal waivers is when this approval came, just days before it was set to expire.”We have a system in place that we’ve been planning for months, since the spring,” Parks said. “Most folks made other arrangements early. So, for us to expand the program and to open up multiple sites at this point, we simply don’t have the staff to do it.”In a statement from School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace, she said: “We are extremely disappointed Senate leaders were forced to strike a key provision to eliminate the reduced-price meal co-pay for eligible families, struggling with rising food and gas costs. Throughout the pandemic, free school meals have ensured students are nourished and ready to learn. The loss of free school meals puts too many students at risk of going hungry.” According to the association, members have reported struggling to obtain sufficient food and supplies for their programs, as manufacturers discontinue products and supply chain issues are causing shortages of as many as 150-200 menu items per order.School nutrition directors across the country report unprecedented price increases, including a 280% increase in the cost of a case of gloves and 137% increase on whole grain bread, according to the SNA.Parks said Surry County Schools is experiencing similar issues. She said she believes meals are just as crucial for students as buses and tablets, and wishes government officials would treat them as such.The association said it will continue to monitor challenges for school meal programs during the 2022-23 academic year and advocate with Congress and USDA for necessary support for the programs and the students they serve.

The School Nutrition Association said it welcomed the passage of The Keep Kids Fed Act. The bipartisan compromise bill is meant to support school meal programs when federal pandemic waivers expire on June 30.

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However, as the SNA points out, during Senate consideration of the bill, a key provision to provide free meals to students eligible for reduced-price meals was removed.

“It is helpful and we are thankful. But we are still concerned that it’s a bit of a Band-Aid,” said Sherri Parks, who is the nutrition director for Surry County Schools. “We’re a little disappointed because we’re still looking at supply chain issues, not having the food and supplies we need, and we’re still looking at our labor cost going up 20 to 30%.”

Parks has been part of this coalition of school nutrition directors, trying to persuade Congress to continue its pandemic program of free meals for students, no matter their family’s income.

She said this bill is better than nothing, as they’ll still get increased federal reimbursements for every school lunch by 40 cents and every school breakfast by 15 cents through School Year 2022/23, which is above the annual inflationary adjustment scheduled for July 1.

The no-cost waivers are also technically extended, including those for schools unable to meet nutrition standards due to supply chain disruptions and to reduce administrative and reporting burdens

The issue with the extension of 2022 summer meal waivers is when this approval came, just days before it was set to expire.

“We have a system in place that we’ve been planning for months, since the spring,” Parks said. “Most folks made other arrangements early. So, for us to expand the program and to open up multiple sites at this point, we simply don’t have the staff to do it.”

In a statement from School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace, she said: “We are extremely disappointed Senate leaders were forced to strike a key provision to eliminate the reduced-price meal co-pay for eligible families, struggling with rising food and gas costs. Throughout the pandemic, free school meals have ensured students are nourished and ready to learn. The loss of free school meals puts too many students at risk of going hungry.”

According to the association, members have reported struggling to obtain sufficient food and supplies for their programs, as manufacturers discontinue products and supply chain issues are causing shortages of as many as 150-200 menu items per order.

School nutrition directors across the country report unprecedented price increases, including a 280% increase in the cost of a case of gloves and 137% increase on whole grain bread, according to the SNA.

Parks said Surry County Schools is experiencing similar issues. She said she believes meals are just as crucial for students as buses and tablets, and wishes government officials would treat them as such.

The association said it will continue to monitor challenges for school meal programs during the 2022-23 academic year and advocate with Congress and USDA for necessary support for the programs and the students they serve.



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