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More Embarrassment For The School Nutrition Association

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The School Nutrition Association, which has allied itself with big food companies in an effort to weaken a four-year old federal law requiring healthier school lunches, has suffered the latest in series of embarrassing defections by prominent members and former leaders.

Stan Garnett, former director of child nutrition at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has resigned from the organization in a blistering email obtained this week (June 16) by The Hagstrom Report (subscription required).

The School Nutrition Association made headlines recently when it threw its support to a provision in a pending House agriculture appropriations bill that would allow schools that don’t meet the improved nutrition standards to seek a waiver. The waiver provision is being pushed by companies that fear losing profitable sales to schools of processed foods such as frozen pizza.

According to an excerpt published by The Lunch Tray blog, Garnett told Association CEO Patti Montague that he was “very much offended by the personalized e-blast I received this week from the School Nutrition Association asking me to lobby my congressional delegation to vote for a waiver provision of the new nutritional standards from the school meals program…”

Garnett joins the ranks of former School Nutrition Association members and leaders who have distanced themselves from the group over its support for the waiver provision. Last month, 19 of its past presidents wrote to lawmakers urging them “to reject calls for waivers, maintain strong standards in all schools, and direct USDA to continue working with school leaders and state directors.”

As EWG reported last week, the Association has been getting cozy with big food companies and the highly paid lobbyists advancing the industry’s interests on Capitol Hill.

Luckily there are other groups out there standing up for the far larger number of school food preparers and servers who haven’t forgotten what’s at stake – the health and wellbeing of children across the country! More than 200 organizations and health professionals have signed a letter opposing the proposed waivers, calling on Congress to “oppose efforts to intervene in science-based rules regarding the federal child nutrition standards.”

Those opposing the waivers include the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which together represent 10 times as many, school food service workers as the School Nutrition Association.

As a result, support is building for an amendment proposed by Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) that would strike the waiver provision from the appropriations bill, which the House is expected to debate and vote on later this summer.

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