American School Food Service Association (ASFSA) is no more. That news incongruously prompted peals of delight from more than 5,000 members attending the kickoff session of the organization's 58th Annual National Conference in Indianapolis in July.
Why the celebration? Because the only thing going away is that name, to be replaced by a more up-to-date—and more accurate—moniker: the School Nutrition Association (SNA).
"This name better identifies what we're all about," said incoming president Karen Johnson, foodservice director of the Yuma (AZ) School District.
The change announcement was only one of many pieces of significant news to come from the annual meeting of the 55,000 member national organization.
Association leaders also spoke favorably of the passage of the 2004 Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, which included a number of provisions that had been vigorously sought by SNA. These were reviewed by the group's legislative counsel, Marshall Matz, who emphasized the unanimous (170-0) bipartisan nature of the vote approving the legislation.
"It's the best bill we've had in 25 years," Matz said, but cautioned that the work was not finished until the non-entitlement provisions of the bill— governing areas like nutrition education, food safety and a pilot program to phase out the reduced-price category for reimbursable school lunches—actually receive Federal funding.
Particularly crucial was the ERP (Elimination of Reduced-price Pilot), which will require some $50 million from Congress before it can go into effect. "USDA won't even decide which states will participate until it gets the money allocated, so we need to continue to advocate with the government" on behalf of these program objectives, Matz urged the assembled SNA membership.
Still, there was considerable optimism surrounding the issue. In his keynote address at the opening general session, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., a longtime school nutrition advocate, pointed to the elimination of the reduced-price category as a major step forward, saying "the foot is in the door and the principle is established."
The passage of ERP, as well as the name change and other successful initiatives such as ASFSA's key role in the incipient Latin American School Feeding Network, which held its first conference this past year, were all tributes to outgoing president Donna Wittrock's leader-ship of the organization over the past year. Wittrock passed the leadership mantle to Johnson at the opening session.
In other convention news, SNA recognized a number of members and partners for their exemplary performance. Notable was the naming of Jean Harris, school/government relations specialist for Pierre Foods, as the second recipient of the association's Individual Industry Member of the Year Award.