This week I attended the School Nutrition Association’s Legislative Action Conference with the Connecticut delegation from the School Nutrition Association of Connecticut (SNACT). The conference itself was motivating and a great opportunity to network with food service professionals who are all there to see change.
On Monday I had the opportunity, along with a colleague Chef John Turenne to meet with USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, Cindy Long and Norah Deluhery of FNS for almost 45 minutes speaking about Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) and about what we are doing in New Haven to change school meals.
The meeting was a great opportunity to meet with the top echelon of USDA and know that we are making a difference. In fact Under Secretary Concannon has agreed to make visiting our schools in New Haven a top priority. This will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase what we all do for the students; myself and the food service team work hard each and every day to do what is best for the students of New Haven Public Schools.
In the meeting we spoke about the many challenges that school districts in CT face in regards to training and equipment, two items not currently funded under the current child nutrition guidelines, but 2 important items that will be included in CNR.
Later Monday afternoon we met with staffers in Congressman Chris Murphy’s office to discuss CNR and to request the Congressman’s support of CNR. The staffers said the Congressman is very supportive of providing students with healthy meals in schools.
On Tuesday John Turenne and I had the wonderful opportunity thanks to Janet McLaughlin of Share Our Strength to meet with Chef Sam Kass. Chef Kass is the Assistant Chef and Food Initiative Coordinator for The White House, working directly with the First Lady on the Let’s Move campaign.
We met with Chef Kass for just under an hour. We will be working more together over the next several weeks to form an advisory group to engage chefs to work with schools. We are in the initial planning stages, but believe me this is surely going to be something great and Connecticut is going to benefit by this connection with The White House.
Late in the day yesterday, we met with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and she is SUPER motivated to see a great CNR go through. She is also interested in developing a plan to engage middle school students to learn more about good nutrition. We will be working closely with her and her staffers to organize this effort in the coming months.
If that seems overwhelming so far, which it was!!! I flew home late last night from DC then hopped the train to NYC to meet with NYC School Food’s Team and Under Secretary Concannon again to discuss CNR and what can be done to make this a great CNR!
I feel strongly that we are in the best shape ever when it comes to seeing real change happen with the USDA, The White House, and Congress all on a path to change. With the support of many organizations including School Nutrition Association, Food Research & Action Center, School Food Focus and others all working together as a team, we will see a real change very soon.