Removal of exemption may create food service issues due to supply chain

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued several nationwide federal waivers, including temporary flexibilities to certain regulatory requirements for infant nutrition programs, according to the Department of Education. from California.

As members of the California School Nutrition Association, the local – CSNA Chapter 45-Mother Lode – voted to send Laura Howe (Manteca Unified) and Pearl Lo (Ripon Unified), San County Child Nutrition Professionals Joaquin, at the School Nutrition Association’s Legislative Action. Conference in Washington DC, March 5-8, to advocate for school nutrition programs.

As members of the ACENC-Mother Lode Chapter 45 Board of Directors, they attend quarterly meetings with other school feeding and industry partners to discuss and improve school nutrition.

At the Legislative Action Conference, they joined more than 600 other nutrition professionals and food industry leaders to advocate for an expansion of USDA waivers for nutrition programs school.

“Despite our efforts, waiver extensions were not included in the omnibus spending bill,” Lo said.

There were several reasons for the waiver requests.

Local officials cited domestic supply chain disruptions and labor shortages as “having severely affected the financial and operational viability” of school meals programs.

This often results in schools not getting what they ordered on the trucks for their menus.

School nutrition programs must adhere to guidelines set by the USDA. Offering 5 meal components at lunch including fruits, various vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein while limiting calories, saturated fat, and sodium intake is challenging with a tight supply chain.

Lo noted that an extension of the waiver would have allowed schools to offer alternative food options.

“With the waivers in place, we could use fortified grains when whole grains were not available. If we couldn’t get broccoli to meet the dark green vegetable requirement, we could substitute it with carrots,” she said.

Howe added: “Another benefit of the waivers was that parents or siblings could pick up food for students who weren’t on campus.

“This summer, school districts will only be able to serve children in attendance and they are not permitted to take this food home. It will also affect students who are still learning remotely. Currently, districts can provide curbside service for these students, and they will no longer be able to next school year. »