USDA proposes rule to enhance enforcement of nutrition standards in schools.

  • Enacted in 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) set nutrition standards for schools.  First Lady Michelle Obama is a prominent supporter of the law and its underlying goal to improve childhood nutrition and combat obesity.
  • On March 29, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule to improve the integrity of child nutrition programs under the HHFKA.  Specifically, the proposed rule would establish criteria for assessments against, and penalties for, state agencies and program operators who violate program requirements.  Under the proposal, a school or school system would face tiered financial penalties based on the reimbursement earned by the school food authority or school for the program in which the violation occurred:  after the first assessment, up to 1% of the amount of meal reimbursements earned for the fiscal year; after the second assessment, up to 5%; and after the third or subsequent assessment, up to 10%.
  • Although penalty provisions already existed, reports indicate that the government has faced challenges with enforcement.  The goal of the proposed rule is to improve enforcement capabilities, and it is anticipated that penalties will be levied in “instances of severe mismanagement of a program, disregard for a program requirement of which the program operator has been informed, or failure to correct repeated action.”  The proposed rule is open for comment until May 31, 2016.