Infighting continues at School Nutrition Association

SNA logo

Internal discord at the School Nutrition Association (SNA) heated up recently as an open letter was forwarded to the SNA Board and leadership asking them to end their campaign to waive school nutrition standards. 86 SNA members from around the nation signed the letter.

The open letter comes as the SNA’s leadership vowed to continue its fight to weaken and roll back provisions of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act in its recently released 2015 position paper.  Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, described the SNA’s position paper asks on her popular blog Food Politics:

The SNA has just issued a Position Paper on school meals. It calls for more funding for school meals (good idea). But then it insists on some very bad ideas:

  • Stop requiring fruits and vegetables to be served with every meal.
  • Don’t require so much whole grain.
  • Back off on lower sodium.
  • Allow junk food to be sold in competition with school meals.

In other words, return to the junk food school environment that flourished before the Institute of Medicine wrote two reports on improving the nutritional quality of school meals, Michelle Obama instituted Let’s Move!, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 authorizing USDA to set nutritional standards, USDA wrote those standards, and most schools in the United States went right ahead and implemented them.

In response to the open letter being circulated, SNA had issued an urgent email alert to all members, warning them not to sign on to the open letter as “this letter will try to discredit the Association and limit SNA’s efforts to advocate on your behalf for any kind of flexibility under the new standards.”

The open letter, which was forwarded by SNA members Miguel Villarreal, Director Food and Nutritional Services and Student Wellness Coordinator for the Novato (California) Unified School District and Ally Mrachek, Nutrition Supervisor, Child Nutrition Department for the Fayetteville (Arkanasas) Public Schools reads:

We, the undersigned members of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), respectfully urge the Board of Directors to withdraw support for any provision in Agriculture Appropriations or other legislation that would waive school nutrition standards.

We are deeply concerned that the reputation of our organization and its members are being damaged by the ongoing requests to weaken or waive school nutrition standards. While we agree that some aspects of the updates to the standards are challenging, we favor targeted and constructive solutions that do not involve Congress waiving school meal or snack standards.

We urge the Board to work with USDA and other stakeholders to identify and adopt solutions to challenges encountered by school food professionals. We also encourage SNA to work with USDA to pair districts, which are succeeding, with those that are struggling in order to assist districts in continuing to move forward.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. We stand ready to support you as you identify practical and long-term solutions that serve both the needs of school districts and the health of our schoolchildren.

This is not the first time SNA members have broken ranks on the issue of rolling back school nutrition standards. Last May, 19 past presidents of the SNA forwarded their own letter to Congress, urging legislators to “reject calls for waivers, maintain strong standards in all schools, and direct USDA to continue working with school leaders and state directors to find ways, including technical assistance, that will ensure all schools can meet the HHFKA standards…We must not reverse the progress that was sought by school leaders and is well on its way to success in most schools.”

A new sign on letter has been created for SNA members, which urges the SNA leadership to “change course and fully support the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act school nutrition standards” as Congress approaches the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

This post first appeared on The Hill

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