With a newfound majority in Congress, Republicans came to the table ready to slice.
As we await the final presidential budget proposal from the Trump administration it may seem like speculation will do no good, it may seem to only incite false fears or hopes.
For even after a presidential budget is proposed, there’s still a battle to hash out regarding what Congress does and doesn’t want to execute within President Trump’s budget proposal.
Every big speculator seems to have gotten it all wrong: starting with who would even be sitting in the Oval Office today.
So why trust more speculation? Because some things are more concrete than they may initially seem.
Regarding school nutrition and bills which govern our programs like NSLP, SBP, and HHFKA: the ideas emanating from the Republican Party have been all but transparent; the plans are all but implemented.
The Congressional Republican majority already knows what the future of school nutrition will be. Are you sure you do?
Is Congress Cutting Off NSLP, SBP, or HHFKA?
This is the question you’re all here to try and answer right? With everything up in the air, you may feel your program is now floating alongside all the issues up for debate.
But nothing looks up in the air regarding school nutrition.
Existing programs will either not be reauthorized, will be dismantled piece by piece, or repealed altogether.
Ending Federally Funded School Nutrition
Two major dots need to be connected. We’re here to draw the lines for you, using only the facts.
Dot 1: The Heritage Foundation’s Crucial Role in Future Nutritional Policy
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has staffed a majority of those working within the Trump transition team. The Heritage Foundation name matters. This think tank has many lobbyists influencing Congress on behalf of conservative interests, not that lobbying is necessary to make Republicans listen to their research.
The Heritage Foundation even touts themselves as the “most influential conservative group in America” with many former congressmen and elected officials moving on to work directly for Heritage.
With President Trump already adopting Heritage’s budget as a blueprint for his proposal, the foundation is set to become an even bigger player.
Previously, The Heritage Foundation has suggested repealing or at least dismantling certain provisions within the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
From a purely budgetary stand point, they assess these programs as unsuccessful.
To be fair, rarely will a conservative think tank admit any Federal program as being successful.
The Heritage Foundation cites monetary waste produced from the Community Eligibility Provision within HHFKA. CEP grants free lunches to all students within a Local Education Agency, district, or school within which 40% or more of the student population is eligible for free meals.
Therefore, if your LEA, district, or school meets these conditions then individual eligibility checks aren’t required. All students, even those who do not need assistance, qualify for free meals.
So is this a partisan effort to dismantle the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act?
It might be, if bipartisan research didn’t side with some of the points they make.
In general, it should be noted that as a conservative think tank, there’s very little in the way of Federal regulations that Heritage sees as necessary.
Dot 2: The OMB , Rep. Mick Mulvaney, and Federal Nutrition Programs Walk Into a Room
In the latest report, the OMB designated the existing school lunch program as “high-error”, citing over $700 million dollars’ worth of waste due to misrepresented eligibility and erroneous transactions. This report has now been removed from the website along with all other reports by the Trump Administration.
The OMB report served as a rallying cry for opponents of HHFKA and federal involvement in school nutrition.
Although the USDA followed up with action planned responses to correct the errors cited by the OMB within its financial report, the designation was not removed.
The nominee to take over the OMB is Republican Representative Mick Mulvaney, known to all as the budget hawk of budget hawks.
If other conservative lawmakers arrive with knives, Mick Mulvaney comes with the cleaver.
As a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, Mulvaney is expected to back the 100-day plan the Freedom Caucus placed on President Trump’s desk which called for a dismantling of HHFKA. The 100-day plan cited wasted food, and therefore monetary waste, as a major factor for discontinuing regulations. The Freedom Caucus claimed that waste was a result of students not enjoying the meals served under new nutritional standards.
These facts make a clear picture against the current program when coupled with previous tensions within congress regarding reauthorizing HHFKA back in 2016. Add to this that Mick Mulvaney backed the Republican Study Committee’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017, which stated “funding for NSLP should be prohibited, returning control of student’s diets to their parents.”, and the picture becomes HD in clarity.
“Mick Mulvaney and his colleagues at the Republican Study Committee when they crafted budgets over the years, they were serious. Mulvaney didn’t take this OMB position to just mind the store. He wants to make significant, fundamental changes to the structure of the president’s budget, and I expect him to do that…”
How Will Cuts Affect Your Nutrition Program?
All signs point towards a slimmer federal budget, with federal money leaving the school lunch program, in favor of what will probably be the privatization of not just school lunches, but probably schools as a whole.
While some keep their hopes high that this will be the case, others find themselves wishing this is another false political promise. Which it will be, only time will tell.
In the mean time, comment below and tell us your thoughts. Understanding how your or other programs may be affected will help all of us in the industry get a better understanding of what our plans of action should be.
In my last post regarding Republican proposals for the first 100 days of President Trump’s term, many of you expressed dissatisfaction with current standards, particularly with HHFKA. Is this the solution?
I was recently on Pep Talks for the latest podcast episode discussing these issues. Make sure to tune in and listen!