The USDA has proposed another new rule change for those participating in the National School Lunch Program. This is separate from the whole grain waivers that are set to expire.This new rule falls under the “Child Nutrition Program Integrity” rule. It has two main focuses:
1) It will change how Food Service Management Companies (FSMC) are selected.
The rule change would eliminate the cost reimbursable contract, which is the only type currently permitted in New Jersey. The proposed change is that the FSMC would be selected on a cost per meal. This would emphasize price over quality. It would inhibit district flexibility since all program changes would require a district to re-bid. This change could include, changes of lunch schedules, increased cafeteria personnel, district requested menu changes, just to name a few.Choosing a FSMC based on the lowest meal cost does not promote quality or healthy nutrition for the students we serve.The USDA’s motivation for this change is based on an audit indicating that some management companies did not properly credit their client school districts with rebates. This would already be a violation of the current regulations. The USDA should focus on punishing those that do not adhere to this requirement; they should not punish students with an inferior program and lower food quality.
2) The USDA will assess more penalties for violations.
The USDA wants more power to fine schools for violation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). The Washington Beacon reported that a pre-school teacher in West Virginia was targeted to be fined for using candy as a reward for good behavior. The HHFKA has already had a detrimental effect on the number of students participating in the lunch programs. These fines will make the relationship with our state regulators more adversarial.
CALL TO ACTION:Let your voice be heard. The USDA is accepting comments about the proposed rule change through May 31st. I have included a sample letter you can use as reference. Let the USDA know how you feel as a Business Administrator. We have always been and will continue to be the professionals hired by our communities to secure the best service, best quality, and the best financial results for our schools.