Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 49
Expand the list of products approved as meeting the “milk” requirement in school meals, with the goal of
increasing Vitamin D intake among children of color. USAID should offer dairy milk alternatives, including lactosefree milk and plant-based milk options, as well as foods that are either rich in or fortified with Vitamin D, such as orange
juice, lactose free or plant-based yogurt, tuna, salmon, egg yolks, and cheese. USDA should increase its reimbursement
rates to offset any increased costs related to dairy milk alternatives, particularly for schools approved to provide universal
free meals under Community Eligibility policies.
Ensure that all eligible children benefit from Child Nutrition programs at school. Researchers, practitioners,
and program designers cannot assume that all eligible students are already participating in nutrition programs. The
enrollment and verification process can pose a variety of barriers to children who are in fact eligible. One USDA study
found that upfront verification206 and graduated verification207 posed barriers to enrollment for eligible children.208 One
way to accurately identify eligible children and boost participation is through the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of
2010, which allows states to use Medicaid data to directly certify children in low-income households as eligible for Child
Identify schools that do not offer one or both school meals, prioritizing schools in areas of concentrated poverty.
Some schools offer school lunch but not school breakfast. USDA should work with schools, prioritizing schools located in
areas with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher, to expand the meal options available to students.
• USDA should strengthen efforts to ensure that school officials and staff do not pressure children to consume dairy
products. Training for the staff of schools that offer or are planning to offer the National School Lunch Program, for
example, should discuss not only the benefits of dairy milk, but the health risks associated with it, including its impact on
lactose-sensitive individuals. Some children of color have been forced to consume milk despite being lactose intolerant.
The emphasis should be on providing food options that meet the needs of various groups of students. Training should also
emphasize the evidence-based recommendations not to pressure or force children to eat, and how to avoid doing this in reallife scenarios.
Increase financial support for kitchen equipment and food preparation
in schools and other meal sites in low-income communities
Inequitable financial resources among schools—the result of making property taxes the source of funding—exacerbate
disparities in child nutrition. Three of the most significant financial investments to serve school meals are kitchen equipment,
staffing, and the initial start-up costs to add a summer feeding program. Schools, churches, and community organizations
interested in offering meals for children in areas of concentrated poverty during summer vacation are often discouraged by
high start-up costs and complex health and safety regulations.
• Ensure that school meal sites have access to kitchen equipment and staff funding. Congress should increase the
reimbursement rates for schools, increase the funding available to states through the NSLP Equipment Assistance Grant
Program, or both. Increasing the reimbursement rate is more equitable in the sense that obtaining an equipment assistance
grant requires an application process that requires staff time and resources, but less equitable in requiring that schools
purchase items up front and wait to be reimbursed. State administrators should consider prioritizing schools that also offer
the Seamless Summer Option (SSO).
• Make congregate (group) feeding programs more financially feasible by increasing financial support for meals
served during extended school breaks. The financial burden and regulatory considerations associated with starting a
summer/winter break meal site can be overwhelming for community organizations. The financial burden could be reduced
by allowing states to grant sponsors initial start-up funding to purchase equipment needed to prepare basic meals and meet
state health codes. Increased federal funding would reimburse states.
All eligible SFSP sites are already located in areas in which 50 percent or more of enrolled students qualify for free meals.
When allocating grants, states should prioritize sites that have few nearby sites.
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