USDA publishes rule on compliance process for schools to meet the new healthier meal standards

April 27, 2012, Food Research and Action Center

On April 27, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published a rule specifying the certification process for schools to receive the six-cent per meal performance-based incentive funds created by the 2010 child nutrition reauthorization. The rule’s title is Certification of Compliance with Meal Requirements for the National School Lunch Program Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

This interim final rule provides State agency procedures to determine compliance with new meal pattern and nutrition standard requirements in order for schools to qualify for the money. School Food Authorities found eligible will be certified to receive performance-based cash assistance for each reimbursable lunch served (an additional six cents per lunch available beginning Oct. 1, 2012, and adjusted annually thereafter).

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act included this six cents per lunch incentive to foster compliance with the new healthier school meals requirements:

“A performance-based rate increase that is made contingent on specific nutritional improvements would provide a strong incentive for schools to achieve the needed improvements to meal quality, and to make these improvements as soon as possible. It would ensure that the increased investment would yield improved benefits for children in higher quality meals, supporting efforts to combat childhood obesity.” U.S. Senate, Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act Section 201 Report Language

USDA also is distributing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act implementation funding, $47 million for each of two years to States for training, technical assistance, certification, and oversight activities.

This rule must be implemented quickly in order for State agencies and schools to complete the process before the new school year. Advocates can work to ensure proper implementation of the new rules by insisting that:

  • Low-income schools have adequate support
  • State agencies move quickly enough to identify problems and address them well before the deadline for certification
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