The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is a national, nonprofit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high-quality, low-cost meals to students across the country. Each year, SNA holds multiple conferences with the focus on continued education, shared experiences, and advocacy. The conferences are an essential tool for SNA to hear from its members about the reality of providing nutritious meals to our nation’s children, but also the critical ability to provide feedback to USDA staff as well as understand the next steps to be taken by the government. For example, The SNA Annual Conference traditionally brings together more than 8,000 school nutrition directors, managers, employees and representatives from industry all who can explain to USDA staff the positive and negative impacts new regulations and policies have on their mission.
Since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) in 2010, school nutrition programs have undergone many changes with additional ones projected over the next few years. These include an overhaul of the School Lunch Meal Pattern, changes to School Breakfast requirements, and competitive food sales. Our members have responded and adapted their programs, yet still face confusion and questions. The ability to have face to face access with Government representatives is important to keep the dialogue open and engaged as we all work together to shape public policy.
School nutrition programs are as unique and diverse as our school population. Some operate with million dollar budgets, large central kitchens, and provide thousands of meals each day. Others however, are more rural with individual kitchens and only feed hundreds. All are equally important, yet the regulations must be adapted for each individual program. It is essential that staff at the USDA and other government officials understand the challenges faced by SNA members and our meetings provide the ability for these face to face discussions.