USDA Provides School Meal Flexibility, Feeds Disaster Victims and More in 2018
Published 12:42 pm Saturday, December 22, 2018
Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service Brandon Lipps today highlighted the accomplishments of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) in 2018, from common-sense flexibilities for school meal providers to the agency’s vigorous response to provide food to the victims of coast-to-coast natural disasters.
“During 2018, the Food and Nutrition Service delivered on Secretary Perdue’s charge to ‘Do right and feed everyone.’ We helped get food to those recovering from disasters from Florida and the southeast, all the way to California and the Marshall Islands,” said Lipps. “We took steps to return control of school breakfasts and lunches to the school districts, while keeping in place structure that ensures our kids get wholesome, balanced meals, and we continued to work to ensure that moms in limited-income families have food security and the means to provide infants and young children with the healthy nutrition they need to grow and succeed.”
While facing a wide variety of hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters, the agency advanced its priorities to promote self-sufficiency, integrity, and customer service in the delivery of federal nutrition programs and, in so doing, put Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s clear directive to ‘do right and feed everyone’ into practice.
Key accomplishments this year include:
Expanding flexibility in delivering wholesome, nutritious, tasty school meals.
To make school meals more appealing to children, reduce food waste, and ease operational burdens, USDA published a final rule allowing for more flexibilities in the food served through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. This action is part of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to President Trump’s Executive Order to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens.
FNS released an easy-to-use mobile application, the Food Buying Guide, to support food service professionals in planning menus with the latest customer-focused technology.
FNS awarded Farm to School Grants to 73 projects across 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, to bring nutritious, local foods into schools and create new economic opportunities for farmers.
Increasing self-sufficiency and protecting integrity in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
With a focus on the Administration’s priority of moving SNAP participants to self-sufficiency through work, FNS trained nearly 40 more state and community organizations through its SNAP E&T Learning Academy, increasing awareness and support throughout the country for increased engagement of SNAP participants in work-related activities. The agency also issued a request for information from all interested stakeholders on how to improve and strengthen our efforts in moving SNAP participants to work.
FNS launched a strengthened performance reporting process that will better enable USDA and its state partners to make informed, data-driven decisions to improve program integrity. In June, USDA released new data on SNAP payment accuracy for the first time in three years – a critical management tool to identify and correct problems and help meet taxpayer expectations that every SNAP benefit is paid to the right person, in the right amount.
Helping Americans recover from devastating hurricanes and wildfires spanning both coasts.
FNS provided almost 13 million pounds of USDA Foods, valued at $18.6 million, and $5 million worth of infant formula and baby food, to ensure that those whose lives were disrupted by disaster had the food they needed as the got back on their feet.
FNS replaced and supplemented SNAP benefits for households in stricken areas and authorized operation of Disaster SNAP, to provide temporary benefits to additional households under expanded eligibility criteria.
FNS eased administrative rules to allow schools in badly-damaged parts of states including North Carolina, Florida and California to temporarily serve free meals to children through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, while streamlining the meal pattern requirements for schools. States were also allowed to designate schools and other facilities as emergency shelters, which could provide meals through USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.
Key flexibilities were provided to those States impacted by hurricanes to support Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants and ensure that mothers and children continued to receive the nutritional support they needed.
Leveraging innovative ideas, new technology, and partnerships to improve customer service.
Worked to support American farmers impacted by unfair trade practices by launching the trade mitigation, Food Purchase and Distribution Program. Through this program the USDA began purchasing domestic food products from farmers for the FNS nutrition assistance program. The support provided to farmers also served another important purpose as it yielded nutritious, 100 percent domestic foods to those in need.
USDA has been unwavering in its commitment to strengthen its customer experience for mothers and their young children in the WIC program. USDA launched an entirely revamped and enhanced breastfeeding promotion campaign based in research to support healthy beginnings for children and build a foundation to self sufficiency. In addition, to further promote and support breastfeeding as an excellent source of nutrition for most infants, USDA’s Secretary Sonny Perdue proclaimed the first week of August National WIC Breastfeeding Week.
Creating a more transparent Dietary Guidelines process.
FNS’ Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, marked three major milestones in the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans development process: (1) Posting for public comment the proposed topics and supporting scientific questions in the review of the evidence supporting the development of upcoming Dietary Guidelines; (2) announcing the call for nominations from the public for Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee candidates, along with the updated topics and scientific questions to be examined by the Committee; and (3) soon thereafter and also for the first time, publicly posting the Committee’s Charter far in advance of its appointment.