24 January 2009 - Kudos to School Nutrition Assn. Members

A few days ago I made a quick trip to the city of New Orleans to attend the annual gathering of the School Nutrition Association and to talk about agricultural production and food supply to the members at a morning breakfast session. This was just after we had enjoyed some of the great products produced on the farms and ranches of the United States.

As is the case with many of my travels and speaking appearances, I’m sure I learned a great deal more from them than they learned from me. This is an impressive group of dedicated people who, like farmers and ranchers, often feel forgotten and unappreciated, but my, what an important role they play.

First of all, they use a lot of the products from our farms and ranches; secondly they are deeply involved in providing nutrition and fighting obesity in our young people. The School Nutrition Association is a national non-profit professional organization representing more than 55,000 members who provide high quality, low cost meals to students across the country. Yes, these are the people who provide school lunches across the nation.

They are in the business of setting standards and providing members with education and training; they are recognized as the authority on school nutrition; they have been advancing the availability, quality and acceptance of school nutrition programs as an integral part of education since 1946.

As I told them in my opening remarks, I went to a one-room, eight- grade country school. We didn’t have the benefit of a school lunch program, either in that grade school or in high school. But today, as was pointed out to me by several members, that one meal served in the school lunch program is, for many children, the one nutritious meal they receive during their day.

They wanted to know in light of the food vs. fuel controversy about food supplies and more importantly, food prices because they are fighting the battle of tighter budgets for the program. For example, in the 2007-2008 school year, the average food cost per meal nationally was $2.63; this school year the price has increased 27 cents per meal. But they assured me they will continue to do what they do every day of the school year; provide safe, nutritious meals to school children across America. I tip my hat and say thanks to the dedicated members of the School Nutrition Association.

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