Dear Secretary Perdue:
On behalf of rural Georgians, congratulations on your appointment as Secretary of Agriculture! We know that you share our commitment to improving the lives of rural children. To that end, I am writing in reference to your May 1 proclamation beginning the regulatory process to create greater flexibility in nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). We applaud the Administration’s initiative and are in full support of this effort to provide children with nutritious meals as economically and efficiently as possible. However, we believe that the changes you announced in May are incomplete.
School systems are not alone in their commitment to provide school-aged children with the nutrition they need. Across the nation, organizations like mine work in partnership with USDA to feed children in need through the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program (CACFP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Second Harvest of South Georgia feeds thousands of children across our region each day, and as local sponsors of these federal child nutrition programs, we face similar challenges related to these nutrition standards.
As such, we respectfully request that the regulatory changes announced be extended to include other federal child nutrition programs including CACFP and SFSP. By including these two programs in the roll back of the milk, whole grain, and sodium standards, USDA has the opportunity to make a significant positive impact on the sponsor organizations like mine and the children these programs are intended to serve. The flexibility restored by these regulatory adjustments will help sponsor organizations reduce food costs and encourage local vendors to participate in procurement.
With lower operational costs, local sponsors can expand their work; this expansion is particularly important in Rural America. For many reasons, existing programs are not meeting the needs of these children. In South Georgia, 1 in 3 children live in homes without a stable source of food, and though our program is the largest in the area, we are still only able to feed less than 1/10 of the kids who need our help. Our program must continue to grow; we need your help to do that.
We realize that you are faced with many requests for departmental changes and that many of those are difficult to enact and even more difficult to fund. This is not one of those requests; this simple change should be revenue-neutral to the federal government. This adjustment may seem small to some, but it can have a tremendous positive benefit to the ‘boots on the ground’ organizations working to feed children in need across this country.
Thank you for your help and consideration in this matter. I look forward to our continued partnership to provide for the families that need our help across Rural America.
Franklin J. Richards, II
For more information on USDA’s efforts to provide greater flexibility to nutrition standards, click HERE.