Call to Order and Roll Call
The3rd meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, September 10, 2012, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Representative Ted Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Walter Blevins Jr., and Jack Westwood; Representatives Linda Belcher, Regina Petrey Bunch, Hubert Collins, Derrick Graham, Rick G. Nelson, Carl Rollins II, Bart Rowland, Wilson Stone, and Jill York.
Guests: Rhonda Caldwell, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Clyde Caudill, Kentucky Association of School Administrators and Jefferson County Public Schools.
School Nutrition Services
Hiren Desai, Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), Associate Commissioner, Office of Administration and Support, said there have been some changes to the School Nutrition Services Program. In 2010, federal law changed with emphasis on changing meal patterns and operational issues. Kentucky receives about $250 million per year in federal funding. About $230 million of that funding goes to school districts to help with the National School Lunch Program. The remainder goes toward reimbursement of meals in childcare. There are over 1,000 sponsors who participate in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and Summer Food Service Program.
Sue Bartenfield, KDE, Branch Manager, Division of School and Community Nutrition, said one of the changes in meal patterns is the alignment of meal patterns and nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program to the dietary guidelines for Americans. As a result, school meals will have increased availability of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free milk, and low-fat milk, as well as reductions in the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat within set calorie ranges by set grade groups. Ms. Bartenfield said there is increased availability to fruits and vegetables for each meal if students would like it. There are minimum and maximum requirements for all other foods. Portion sizes for meat and grains have decreased and portion sizes for fruits and vegetables have increased.
In response to Representative Belcher’s question regarding students in elementary schools being allowed to choose what they want to eat, Ms. Bartenfield said the students are allowed to choose what they want to eat at the discretion of the school district.
In response to Chairman McGaha’s question regarding the minimum and maximum requirement of food for each student, Ms. Bartenfield said meals must stay within a minimum and maximum range of the meats and meat alternate. She said if the students are supposed to have eight to ten ounces of meat or meat alternate weekly, then that would mean they could have an ounce and one-half to two and one-half ounces daily.
Ms. Bartenfield said there is a paid lunch equity tool that each school district must complete and submit to the Division of School and Community Nutrition. The school lunch must be at least $2.50 this year because that is the reimbursement for each free lunch served. Ms. Bartenfield said the paid lunch equity requirement may be met through prices charged for “paid” lunches and through other non-federal sources provided to the nonprofit school food service account. She stated some districts chose to supplement the costs of meals rather than charge the students more for their lunches.
In response to Representative Stone’s questions regarding the free and reduced lunch rate, Ms. Bartenfield said the schools have to charge at a minimum the amount they get for reimbursement for the free meal.
In response to Chairman McGaha’s question regarding certification, Ms. Bartenfield said the Division of School and Community Nutrition has a definite checklist. The department has funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to employ six people to train, do technical assistance, and certify districts for meal patterns. The federal funding is for two years.
Mr. Desai said the Community Eligibility Option (CEO) is a very good federal program in which Kentucky has participated with two other states.
Colby Wagner, Child Nutrition Consultant, said the CEO program helps districts get reimbursement for their meals as opposed to collecting free or reduced price applications from households. Reimbursement is based on a percentage of the district’s children who have been directly certified. CEO provides an alternative to household applications for free and reduced priced meals in high poverty Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and schools. LEAs and schools electing the option agree to serve all students free lunches and breakfasts for four successive school years.
In response to Representative Collins’ question regarding financial requirements for the free lunch program, Mr. Wagner said that districts are required to send applications. The applications have the federal poverty rates according to household size. If a family falls within a certain threshold of number of people within the family and annual income, then the children are eligible for free or reduced priced meals.
In response to Representative Edmonds’ question regarding money for free lunches going to the whole school district, Mr. Wagner said the economy has gotten worse and as a result more families are qualifying.
Representative Collins moved to approve the minutes of the August 13, 2012 meeting, Representative Belcher seconded the motion, and the motion carried.
Mr. Wagner stated that last year there were 18 school districts that participated in the CEO program. CEO has 52 school districts this year. There should be more participants in the coming years because this is the first year that Medicaid is included with the directly certified children.
In response to Chairman McGaha’s question regarding the funding being by school or district, Mr. Wagner said it is determined school by school.
Mr. Desai said one of the challenges CEO had last year with the school districts was the cost versus the benefit of participating. School districts were concerned with the administrative costs with the process. One of the reasons there were only 18 school districts participating the first year was that Kentucky was one of three states in the country to pilot the CEO program. Many remaining school districts did not know if the projected costs from the federal government would be accurate. He said the first year of CEO was a success, and after the word spread, other districts wanted to participate.
In response to Chairman McGaha’s question regarding Title I, Mr. Wagner said Title I funding is tied to the number of free and reduced paid children within a district.
Deanna Tackett, KDE, Acting Director, Division of School and Community Nutrition, explained the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). FFVP program is based on a competitive grant application process. Schools that want to participate have to be eligible elementary schools and must submit an application. FFVP offers fresh fruits and vegetables to students during the school day, at times other than meal service periods. Schools that represent a state’s highest free and reduced price enrollment are eligible to participate and are given priority due to their high need level. Only elementary schools can participate, and those elementary schools must operate in the National School Lunch Program. Those schools must submit an application to compete. Ms. Tackett said the funding for this fiscal year is $2,746,543. Based on the applications that were received, this calculates to $52.66 per child.
Ms. Tackett said the Division of School and Community Nutrition has a new computer application system called Child Nutrition Information and Payment System (CNIPS). This is an on-line, web-based system that districts and child and adult care food programs sponsors use to process their applications and submit their claims. Mr. Desai said that the system, paid for with federal funds, costs $2 million.
In response to Representative Collins’ question regarding students’ eating habits with fruits and vegetables, Ms. Tackett said most children have been exposed to grapes and apples, but not much else. Some children are hesitant to try other fruits and vegetables until they see other children and adults eating them.
In response to a question from Representative Belcher, Ms. Tackett said 125 schools participate in the FFVP.
In response to Representative York’s questions and comments regarding ounces of meat per week for students, Ms. Bartenfield said the minimum and weekly range for Kindergarten through fifth grade is one ounce equivalent minimum daily and eight to ten ounces weekly; grades six through eight, one ounce equivalent minimum daily and nine to ten ounces weekly; and grades nine through twelve, two ounces equivalent minimum daily and ten to twelve ounces weekly. Mr. Desai stated that the Department of Education and local school districts have communicated concerns with the federal government about small portion sizes for students.
Responding to Chairman McGaha’s question regarding a bag with more food for students who are still hungry, Mr. Wagner said he has heard of schools doing that and he is supportive. He said some of students might not be able to afford the bag.
Responding to Senator Westwood’s question regarding students bringing their own lunch to school, Ms. Bartenfield said there are no restrictions by the government for students to bring their own lunches.
Responding to Representative Belcher’s question regarding a regulation that does not allow a student to have a snack before lunch, Ms. Bartenfield said she is not aware of the regulation. It is up to the school to decide whether to allow snacks before lunch.
Upon motion from Representative Stone, seconded by Representative Belcher, the committee will draft a letter to the federal government to voice concerns about changes to the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
Farm to School
Tina Garland, Farm to School Program Coordinator, Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), said the Farm to School program links producers and schools together in Kentucky. The Farm to School program connects the producer and food service director to create a relationship so schools can get fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and dairy products. Kentucky Proud is a big part of the Farm to School Program. The program provides the producer an edge on marketing and gives people a logo with which to identify.
Ms. Garland said program focuses on three areas: classroom, community, and cafeteria. The Program is a cornerstone for every community’s rural development because it can provide sustainability for communities and school involvement. The program’s curriculum focuses on food sources and nutrition. The curriculum also focuses on involving the students, raising awareness, and increasing participation. Ms. Garland said the program promotes taste testing with the students to encourage them to try something new. Chefs were recently introduced in the schools.
Bill Wickliffe, Director, Division of Food Distribution, KDA, said the Farm to School program will have a Junior Iron Chef competition this year. This will be a school competition, just like a sport. The finals will be held at the 2013 Kentucky State Fair. The program involves schoolchildren and farmers around a particular area. Farm to School has been around for a few years and is just now really starting to take off. Mr. Wickliffe stated that the program involves more than just the farmer bringing the fruits and vegetables into the schools in that schools are starting to grow their own gardens. Schools are taking an active role in greenhouse investments.
In response to a question from Representative Stone, Ms. Garland said the program is operating in Jefferson County. Because Jefferson County is so large, the district must purchase from multiple farmers.
Mr. Wickliffe stated the Farm to School program works to make sure children understand how food gets to their tables.
In response to Senator Blevins’ question regarding the number of school districts having farms and gardens, Ms. Garland said she did not know but that they are becoming popular across the state.
Representative Graham commended the presentation and stated that Frankfort High School participates in the Farm to School program.
Chairman McGaha thanked the guests for their presentations. With no further business before the committee, the meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.