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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION

What You Need to Know: Implementing School Nutrition Regulations for CTE Part II

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April 25, 2014

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What You Need to Know: Implementing School Nutrition Regulations for CTE Part II

This is part two in our series for the CTE Policy Watch blog where we examine some of the common questions and concerns of the CTE community on the implementation of new nutritional guidelines for the sale of competitive foods in schools. In part one; we looked in detail at the components of these new guidelines and how that might impact CTE programs that operate school-based enterprises (SBE), including student-run cafés, bakeries and catering businesses. While some CTE programs will find it relatively easy to adapt to the new standards and sell healthier options to students, others may find it difficult or unmanageable to meet these new standards, particularly in culinary-arts focused programs with a wide variety of instructional standards to meet. To help address these concerns, the focus of this story will be on the exemptions and special waivers that may provide some regulatory relief for CTE students and educators.

Are there any exemptions to the regulations?

The one exemption that is specifically referenced in the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA)—the law that authorized the national nutritional standards for competitive foods sold in schools—involves in-school fundraisers. The law says, “special exemptions for school-sponsored fundraisers (other than fundraising through vending machines, school stores, snack bars, a la carte sales, and any other exclusions determined by the Secretary), if the fundraisers are approved by the school and are infrequent within the school.” However, to meet the “infrequent” standard set by the HHFKA, the USDA mandates that there must be a limit on the number of exempt fundraisers that may be held during the school year, and that each state will establish the limit. If a state does not specify the exemption frequency, no fundraiser exemptions may be granted.

It is important to note that the standards would not apply to items sold during non-school hours, weekends, or off-campus fundraising events. Additionally, there is no limitation on foods that do meet the regulatory standards sold at fundraisers on the school campus during school hours. You can find more information about the nutritional guidelines through the USDA website. If in-school fundraisers are an important activity for you CTE program and/or CTSO chapter, this exemption may come in handy. Contact your state education agency for more information about the fundraiser exemption. 

Are waivers currently available for CTE?

Original draft version of the regulations did not specifically address the potential impact on CTE programs. However, in July 2013, the USDA published the interim final rule, which acknowledged, “students are preparing to enter the workforce where the nutritional standards and requirements may vary widely from those required under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP). Applying the nutrition standards for competitive food to these programs may limit the skill development necessary for careers in the food industry.” It goes on to say, “therefore, in recognition of the potential conflict of legislative intent, the department is willing to consider each situation on a case by case basis, and provide a waiver where appropriate.” This section suggested the option for a special waiver that would apply to CTE programs to be granted at the discretion of the USDA.

However a memo issued on April 22, 2014 by the Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Division of the USDA states, “Section 12(I)(4)(J) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA), 42 USC 1760(I)(4)(J), prohibits the Secretary from granting a waiver that relates to the requirements of the NSLA, the Child Nutrition Act (CAN), or any regulation issued under either statute with regard to the sale of foods sold outside of the school meal programs. Therefore, the nutrition standards included in the interim final rule apply to all foods sold to students on the school campus during the school day, including food prepared and/or sold by culinary education programs.” This new information is in contrast to the interim final rule, and ACTE will continue to work with the USDA and Congress to clarify the inconsistencies in the federal guidance. 

If you believe that your program may be affected by these regulations, contact your state education agency for more information. You can also contact your local FNS Regional Office.

USDA FNS Regional Offices

States Served

Midwest Regional Office - Chicago, IL

Phone: 312-353-6664

Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin

Mountain Plains Regional Office - Denver, CO

Phone: 303-844-0300

Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming

Northeast Regional Office - Boston, MA

Phone: 617-565-6370

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Southeast Regional Office - Atlanta, GA

Phone: 404-562-1801

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee

Southwest Regional Office - Dallas, TX

Phone: 214-290-9800

Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas

Western Regional Office - San Francisco, CA

Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Northern Mariana Islands, Nevada, Oregon, Washington

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