CEO Patricia Montague didn’t dance around the School Nutrition Association’s issues with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the debate with the USDA. At the opening general session of the 68th SNA Annual National Conference Sunday in Boston, Montague said the SNA couldn’t wait any longer for help from the USDA. 

“The USDA has provided some relief, but it is simply not enough,” Montague told a crowd of several thousand school foodservice workers. “In the interest of you, we began to seek new avenues for help.”

That was SNA’s congressional effort to include a waiver in the 2015 agriculture appropriations bill that would allow struggling schools to opt out of the program for a year. Neither the House or Senate has voted on the bill yet, and may never, but outgoing SNA President Leah Schmidt said she hoped the SNA’s four requests would at least be discussed. Montague said the association agreed to this strategy to keep the process moving forward.

The SNA is fighting to maintain the 50% whole grain rich requirement and the Target 1 sodium levels, while losing the mandate to serve a fruit or vegetable with every meal and allowing the healthy items on the meal line to also be sold a la carte.

Approximately 6,500 attendees gathered in Boston for the annual event running through Wednesday, including several high profile national media outlets following the school food/political fight.

 Increased regulations of HHFKA have technically already begun, or will when districts get back to school later this month and next. SNA was part of a meeting last week with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Let’s Move! Executive Director Sam Kass and there has been hope that more compromises could follow. Numerous members of the USDA will be on hand throughout the SNA’s annual conference and many were speaking on panels, including Dr. Janey Thornton, former SNA president and now Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, during a general session Tuesday.

In other conference news, SNA honored four of its members with national awards. Gail Gramling, cafeteria supervisor for North High School in Torrance Unified School District (CA) was honored with the Louise Sublette Award of Excellence in School Nutrition. Lauren Teng, SNS and director of student nutrition for Huntington Beach Union High School District (CA) was named the outstanding director of the year. The Heart of the Program Award went to Brenda Thompson of Raymond Cree Middle School in Palm Springs, CA, while Stacy Sagowitz, president of School Nutrition Services in Irvine, CA, was the Industry Member of the Year.