The5th meeting of the Subcommittee on Families and Children of the Interim Joint Committee on Health and Welfare was held on Wednesday, November 19, 2008, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Katie Stine, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Bill Doll for the Kentucky Medical Association; Tim Weldon, Pam Goins, and Jennifer Ginn for the Council on State Government.
Guest Legislator: Representative Jimmie Lee.
LRC Staff: Ben Payne, Mike Bossick, and Cindy Smith.
First on the agenda was a presentation on school nutrition by Paul McElwain, Director of the Division of Nutrition and Health Services for the Kentucky Department of Education, and Pam Goins and Jennifer Gin, Education Policy Analysts at the Council of State Governments. Mr. McElwain informed the subcommittee about how menus are formulated in Kentucky schools. Each meal plan in the schools is federally required to serve one third of the recommended daily allowance of nutrients. The subcommittee was informed that dietary menus are constructed in two ways, by nutrient standards or by food item selection. The subcommittee also learned about the fresh fruit and vegetable program and the food commodity program from the U.S Department of Agriculture. Mr. McElwain informed the subcommittee that Kentucky has more schools recognized by the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge than any other state in the country.
Senator Stine asked if there is room for innovation in the commodities program. Mr. McElwain said that schools have the discretion to purchase as much of the commodities as the commodities district program has available. Also, the Department of Defense purchases the best fruits and vegetables for the troops and schools also have access to that purchase program.
Senator Stine asked if schools have any partnerships with Kentucky Proud. Mr. McElwain said he does not know of any partnerships with Kentucky Proud, but in some counties schools participate in co-ops. In Bath County, there is a school co-op that cleans vegetables and gets them ready for purchase. Once schools purchase the vegetables, on the day they are prepared, the school brings in the farmers that raised the vegetables and they give presentations to the students about the vegetables, how they are grown and harvested.
Representative Lee asked if the Department of Education has ever conducted a survey of children about meals they consume outside of the school day. Mr. McElwain said that the Department had not done that type of survey and he wasn’t aware of any other entity that had. Dr. Hatim Omar of the University of Kentucky told the members that three years ago a survey was done at two schools in Lexington and it was concluded that 51 percent of the children were overweight, and 78 percent of the meals were inappropriate. The same surveys were completed in Lincoln County and it was found that 86 percent of the meals were inappropriate.
Senator Stine asked if the meals at school could be used as an educational mechanism. Dr. Omar said absolutely and that schools can educate parents to lead by example.
Senator Stine asked what entity sets dietary guidelines. Mr. McElwain said they are set by the USDA and the Department for Health and Human Services and they are updated every five years.
Representative Burch asked if commodities are figured by income. Mr. McElwain said that commodities are figured by taking the personal plate commodity rate and multiplying it by the reimbursable lunches served the previous year. That total is the number of commodities that can be purchased and then schools make choices of what to purchase.
Representative Comer asked if there are qualifications for a school nutrition director and what the salary is. Mr. McElwain said that in 2005, SB 172 was passed which required that each school district have a full-time food service director. It also allows small school districts to share with other school districts. If the food service director is not qualified when they are hired, they have three years to complete the qualifications. Salaries vary by district.
Pam Goins and Jennifer Ginn, representing the Education Policy Division of The Council of State Governments (CSG), also discussed school nutrition. CSG informed the subcommittee about the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. Nationally more than 10.5 million school children participate in the School Breakfast Program, with 70 percent receiving free meals and 10 percent receiving meals at reduced prices. Almost 31 million school children nationally participate in the School Lunch Program, with nearly 50 percent receiving meals free and 10 percent receiving meals at reduced prices. CSG discussed the USDA Commodity Food Program and how it supplies U.S. schools with 20 percent of the school meal comprised of more than 180 different commodity foods. CSG has drawn links connecting school nutrition to childhood obesity and points out that 25 million children and adolescents are overweight or obese. CSG also reported that Kentucky students are above the national average for students who are overweight or obese. CSG ended their presentation with some policy recommendations.
Next the subcommittee heard from Shane Tucker, the Federal Program Manager with the Office of Local Program of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Mr. Tucker discussed the five programs of the Office of Local Programs. The programs are Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality, Scenic Byways Program, Transportation Community and System Preservation. The five programs were discussed and the application processes along with the types of bicycle and pedestrian facilities that can be created under each program were presented. The general criteria the Office of Local Programs uses to select projects are based on need, benefits to a community, reliable estimates, funding possibilities, and the projects readiness for implementation. The sponsoring local entities of the projects are expected to solicit public support, obtain matching funding, and arrange for long term maintenance of the project.
The subcommittee received a presentation from Dr. Hatim Omar, with the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Omar spoke about Teen Suicide in Kentucky. The subcommittee was informed that suicide is one of the top three causes of death for 11 to 21 year olds in Kentucky. The subcommittee learned that there are numerous risk behaviors that contribute to teen suicide. Youth mortality is at a higher percentage in Kentucky than in the nation and suicide rates in Kentucky are also higher than the national percentage. Dr. Omar also detailed the University of Kentucky Adolescent Health Program and its practices to help prevent teen suicide in Kentucky.
Representative Burch asked how much money is needed to serve all areas and stages. Dr. Omar said that $1 million per year would help. Representative Burch asked if the program would be successful with $2 million in the budget. Dr. Omar said with that amount of money within five years, Kentucky would look better than any other state.
Senator Clark asked if Dr. Omar would consider working with existing programs. Dr. Omar said that is what has to be done to make the programs work.
Senator Clark asked how teens know where to reach out to. Dr. Omar said that they did not advertise at first. They did talks at schools and information about the program spread by word of mouth. They also have a website that many teens have accessed. Many teens either email or call when they need help. Once a teen says they need help, help is given immediately, no matter what time of day it is.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:55 a.m.