Yesterday, we brought up how the School Nutrition Association (SNA) has rightfully come under severe scrutiny for its partnerships with Big Food, which in turn have resulted in the organization drastically changing its views on what constitutes healthful school food.
In this Al Jazeera America post titled “School food lobby flip-flops on healthy school lunches,” public health lawyer Michele Simon looks at these factors, and looks at the parallels between SNA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
- “SNA represents the 55,000 school food directors, nutritionists and other professionals who have the tough and thankless job of feeding millions of schoolchildren every day. Some of its members no doubt face challenges implementing recent nutrition changes required by the feds, mostly caused by the six-cents-per-meal increase that Congress allotted, despite health advocates asking for $1 more. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, as it is called, requires several changes based on scientific evidence, such as lowering sodium while adding whole grains and fruit and vegetable servings, along with an increase in federal reimbursement rates.”
- “Instead of finding ways to help schools comply with the new rules, SNA has instead decided to pick a fight with the first lady and dozens of other public health and child-advocacy groups. SNA originally supported the law when it was passed in 2010 with bipartisan support. And by most accounts, the rollout of the new rules has gone smoothly. But along the way, SNA had a change of heart.”
- “How did this happen? That’s exactly what Michelle Obama would like to know. At a recent roundtable discussion covered by Politico, the first lady asked: “Why are we even having this conversation? Help me understand why, especially given the fact that the School Nutrition Association worked to pass the original changes in the nutrition standards.”
- “Part of the answer lies in a change in leadership, as reported by Jerry Hagstrom in the National Journal. A longtime lobbyist for SNA with close ties to the Obama administration was let go last year. It seems the new leadership is more inclined to let the group’s food industry connections interfere with doing the right thing.”
- “Half of SNA’s $10 million budget comes from food industry members. Much of the group’s revenue is generated at its annual conference, which brought in $4.7 million in 2012. At the meeting, “companies can pay $15,000 to sponsor an education session track featuring a company representative or $20,000 to put their logo on the hotel key cards.” The sponsors listed for the 2014 event, coming up in July, include such partners as Domino’s Pizza, Schwans (pizza again), General Mills, PepsiCo, Tyson Foods, Sara Lee and Muffin Town.”
Our hope is that the Academy can see this current kerkuffle as a cautionary tale of what happens to a group’s reputation, public perception, and efficacy when its intentions are corroded by food industry interests above all else.
While it is encouraging to know that the Academy is advocating for schools to comply with the new school food rules, it simultaneously continues to take funding from — and partner with — the same companies thtr are putting up roadblocks.