Wednesday, July 12 marked the last day of the School Nutrition Association’s 2017 Annual National Conference (ANC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

The agenda lined up as expected, until a blast from SNA alerted members that Sonny Perdue, the former Governor of Georgia, and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under the Trump administration, would be speaking as a part of the Closing General Session.

Nothing seemed more appropriate than the former Governor of Georgia speaking at the Annual National Conference. After all, the USDA is the entity that runs and governs all school lunch programs in the United States. And whether it was because HHFKA (Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act) was a pet project of the Obama Administration, or because of his background as a farmer and what he truly believes to be a failing system, Secretary Perdue has had his finger on the pulse since his first day in office.

Murmurs throughout the conference and even during several of SNA’s education sessions on legislative updates and SNA’s position paper (formed to lay out its advocacy plan in D.C. for that year) even mentioned the uncertainty around what Secretary Perdue would be headlining with.

SNA’s SVP of Government Affairs & Media Relations Cathy Schuchart, along with SNA’s Public Policy & Legislation Committee Chair Doug Davis, reiterated that they only expected him to speak out about the proclamation he issued following his confirmation. Instead, what the crowd received during his speech was a no-holds-barred condemnation of policies that restricted the freedom of those cooking in our kitchens. This was coupled with rhetoric that offered a highly critical view of the federal government for restricting access to funds on condition of compliance to these stringent regulations.

One of the most memorable quotes of the morning:

“If the program isn’t working as designed, as intended [sic], is it really progress? Others have said the program is a success because most schools are compliant already! I said if all that means is that they obey orders under the threat of the federal government taking away their money, I guess I’d be compliant too.”

To catch the full speech, watch USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on our Facebook Live feed.

Let me know what you thought of his speech, the points he made, and his approach. Is this the change industry professionals have been asking for? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Click here to watch the full speech by former Governor of Georgia and current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue at SNA’s Annual National Conference.