Child nutrition reauthorization:
Rethinking school food service

Last month, President Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Commonly referred to as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, it provides funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs, including $4.5 billion in new funding over 10 years.

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Child nutrition reauthorization:
Rethinking school food service


Last month, President Obama signed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Commonly referred to as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, it provides funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs, including $4.5 billion in new funding over 10 years. (Source: Let’s Move government website.)

“While we’re still studying the details of this legislation, we do know that it does two important things,” said Sandra Kangas, director of South Dakota’s Child and Adult Nutrition Services, which is part of the state Department of Education.

1) It increases the federal reimbursement rate for school lunches by 6 cents for districts that comply with federal nutrition standards. This is the first such increase in many years.

According to Kangas, the increase is likely a year out, as the new standards must go through a public comment period and a method for determining compliance must be developed. Implementation is expected in the 2012-13 school year.

2) It provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture with authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including in vending machines, “a la carte” lunch lines and school stores. This is commonly referred to as the “bell to bell” rule, as it covers only the school day.

Other key pieces of the legislation include the following:
• It requires that school districts have a program review every three years to improve compliance with operation and nutrition standards. Currently, programs in South Dakota are reviewed every five years.

• It will eventually increase the number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs by approximately 115,000 students by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements.

• It allows more universal meal access for eligible students in high-poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school-wide income eligibility.

• It requires schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of meals.

• It provides training and technical assistance for school food service providers and requires USDA to establish a program of required education, training and certification for school food service directors.


“A couple of other important pieces of the legislation deal with equity in lunch prices – ensuring that reimbursement for free and reduced-price meals does not supplement the paid meal category – and requiring that free potable water be provided where meals are served,” Kangas added.

South Dakota’s CANS office will be working closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the months ahead to understand the new law and its impact on school districts and other local agencies operating child nutrition programs.

In the meantime, Kangas recommends that districts check out a Q & A put together by the School Nutrition Association regarding the landmark legislation.