How did the School Nutrition Association, the nation’s largest organization of school food professionals, go from being a vocal supporter of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to the moving force behind current efforts to gut that legislation?
Even the First Lady finds this flip-fop perplexing, reportedly saying at a recent gathering of school nutrition leaders, “Help me understand why, especially given the fact that the School Nutrition Association worked to pass the original changes in the nutrition standards. … If anyone can help me understand how we wound up here.”
Now two new articles shed some light on that question. Jerry Hagstrom’s piece in the National Journal, “It’s Time to Protect School-Cafeteria Workers From Their Own Food Fight,” and Helena Bottemiller Evich’s piece on Politico, “First Lady vs. Lunch Ladies: Behind the Scenes,” both describe dramatic changes in SNA’s top leadership and platform, changes which are causing considerable dissension among SNA’s membership.
This background helps explain why 19 past SNA presidents recently took the highly unusual step of publicly breaking with their own organization to urge Congress not to roll-back healthier school food standards. It’s also quite encouraging to me, as a school food advocate, to learn that SNA’s troubling positions are not necessarily shared by the organization’s members at large.
It remains to be seen if SNA’s efforts to weaken school meal standards are successful, something we may not be able to fully assess until the Child Nutrition Reauthorization is completed in 2015. But developments like the past presidents’ letter, press reports like the ones above, and now-frequent discussions in the media of the organization’s ties to Big Food, all may leave the SNA wishing it never picked this food fight in the first place.
[Ed Update 6/4/14: The Politico link was changed to give readers access to the free version of the story.]
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