NEW YORK, June 4, 2019 – The Urban School Food Alliance (The Alliance) was created by school food professionals in 2012 to address the unique needs of the nation’s largest school districts. The Alliance focus is on sharing best practices and leveraging their purchasing power through driving quality up and costs down while incorporating sound environmental practices. Our members include New York City Department of Education (New York), Los Angeles Unified School District (Los Angeles), Chicago Public Schools (Chicago), Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Miami), Dallas Independent School District (Dallas), Orange County Public Schools (Orlando), Broward County Public Schools (Fort Lauderdale), School District of Philadelphia (Philadelphia), Baltimore Public Schools (Baltimore), and Boston Public Schools (Boston). Collectively we offer meal services to nearly 3.3 million students daily. Annually, we serve over 584 million meals and spend $755 million on food and food supplies across the country.
We support research-based nutrition policy and guidelines, aimed at boosting student achievement and educating students about healthy choices and lifestyles. We are committed to serving students healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals.
As Child Nutrition Reauthorization moves forward, we have asked that the following recommendations be considered. These recommendations support the development of the students in our schools which in turn supports the interests of all communities across America.
1. Combine all meal patterns into the same pattern.
Creating one meal pattern for after-school supper, school lunch, and summer would reduce administrative burden and make it easier for students and staff to understand.
2. Prioritize student consumption.
The Alliance urges the USDA to place student priorities first and create an environmentally sustainable meal pattern using age appropriate portions that focus on student consumption and reduces waste. As we enter a new set of standards; we ask the USDA to promptly provide funding to conduct a comprehensive multi-state pilot and study that will analyze the USDA’s menu pattern, portion sizes, time to eat, and regulations, and measure the impact on student consumption and social behaviors. The comprehensive study should include recommendations on how best to have students consume the food offered and served while reducing food waste. Innovative ways to increase consumption and reduce food waste need to be studied as we strive to provide an environmentally sound program and enhance child nutrition outcomes. Alliance members would be interested in assisting the USDA with this pilot.
3. Invest in the USDA Foods Program.
Currently, the USDA allocates $0.23 for every lunch served during the previous school year. The Alliance recommends the allocation to increase to $0.75 per lunch served the previous school year. This increase will align with the actual food costs of the program and would allow operators to make use of these American grown products in all federal school nutrition programs. Within this recommendation, it should also be noted that USDA dollar allocations should be allowed to purchase local and regional products.
4. Remove congregate feeding requirements.
Under current regulations, children must eat their meals on the premises of the sites where they are served in a supervised setting. This is known as the congregate feeding requirement. Revising this requirement would allow students to access nutritious meals easily. The Alliance recommends that students have the ability to receive meals regardless of where they are consumed. It is our belief that by removing the congregate feeding requirement (particularly for summer meals) more meals would be served to children who have limited access to nutritious meals at home.
5. Consider school mealtimes as part of the school day, serving meals at no cost to students.
Studies show that nutritious school meals contribute to the academic success of all students and therefore, we believe meals should be considered an integral part of the school experience. Students are not charged for bus rides, textbooks, or teachers based on income. Due to science-based research that identifies sound nutrition as a critical factor in learning, we believe that school meals should also be treated as a critical tool for student success. We recommend eliminating all meal-tracking administrative burdens, allowing food service directors nationwide to serve all students meals at no cost. These meals would be reimbursed at the annual free rate posted by USDA and would align with our mission of serving students’ nutritious meals that promote their health, well-being and academic achievement.
All the above would be a sound investment in our children and the future of our country. The Urban School Food Alliance recommends that Congress considers these important improvements to the school meal experience for our nation’s students each day that they attend school. Making these changes will lead to increased access and participation in the meal programs and will set the stage for our meal programs to teach lifelong healthy eating habits, will significantly reduce childhood hunger, and will become a model for the world.
For more information please contact:
Dr. Katie Wilson
The Urban School Food Alliance