NCA Comments – Proposed Rule Revisions to Meal Patterns
May 23, 2023
In February 2023, USDA released the proposed rule Child Nutrition Programs: Revisions to Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. While the proposed rule mainly focused on School Lunch and Breakfast programs, there were multiple proposed changes that would also impact the CACFP if implemented.
After meeting with NCA members and CACFP stakeholders, NCA provided a comment to USDA stating which proposed changes NCA supports and does not support along with potential impacts. After the comment period was extended for another 30 days, NCA provided an additional comment highlighting the potential cost and administrative burden placed on CACFP operators if the proposed terminology change from Meat/Meat Alternate to Protein Sources was implemented.
NCA also created model comments to be used and personalized by our members, resulting in over 100 member comments to the proposed rule comment portal.
Executive Summary NCA’s Response to the Proposed Rule (Comment 1)
NCA recognizes the science-based nutrition recommendations and the desire to further align the CACFP with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). However, we are concerned with the exorbitant cost and administrative burden that some of these proposed rules will place on CACFP/ SFSP administrators, sponsors, and providers. As pandemic financial support and flexibilities end, many sponsoring organizations predict they will lose up to 30% of their providers, which will impact them drastically. At a time when the number of sponsoring organizations and CACFP providers are in decline, we ask you to consider whether changes for an already fragile infrastructure are necessary right now. Any final rule for the CACFP must be accompanied by a significant funding increase at every level.
Furthermore, many proposed changes do not include the SFSP. USDA did hint that the SFSP meal pattern might be reviewed in the future. Many sponsors and providers operate both the CACFP and SFSP, so we recommend USDA consider this important point when considering changes in one or both programs.
NCA supports a CACFP meal pattern that is based on a food component meal pattern. Additionally, many CACFP operators are first and foremost caregivers who also fulfill the purpose of feeding nutritious meals and snacks to the children and/or adults in their care. Therefore, special consideration should be given to their unique circumstances. We urge USDA to focus on simplifying and streamlining the CACFP to encourage current providers to stay on the program and help new providers join the CACFP, not add administrative barriers and cost to the program.
NCA SUPPORTS the following proposed rules which support equitable practices in both the CACFP and SFSP.
- Allowing institutions and facilities, or sponsors, as applicable, that serve primarily American Indian or Alaska Native children to substitute vegetables for grains or breads
- Explicitly stating in regulations that traditional foods may be served in reimbursable school meals
- Expanding geographic preference options by allowing locally grown, raised, or caught as procurement specifications for unprocessed or minimally processed food items
NCA also SUPPORTS the following proposed rules.
- Allowing nuts and seeds to credit for the full meat/meat alternate component
- Adding the regulatory definition for whole grain-rich
- Terminology change: “legumes (beans and peas)” vegetable subgroup to “beans, peas and lentils”
- Aligning NSLP snack standards for school-aged children with the CACFP snack requirements
NCA will SUPPORT:
- Replacing the current total sugar limits with added sugar limits for breakfast cereal and yogurt and limiting breakfast cereals to no more than 6 grams of added sugars per dry ounce and limiting yogurt to no more than 12 grams of added sugars per 6 ounces only if CACFP sponsors and providers can continue to use the WIC list for creditable cereals and grains
NCA does NOT SUPPORT the following proposed rules.
- Making any of the following terminology changes:
- “meat/ meat alternate” to “protein sources”
- “food components” to “meal components”
- “grains” to “grain items”
- Aligning CACFP in any future rulemaking with school meals should Alternative A be finalized with sugar limits and/or restrictions on flavored milk for grades K–8 or K–5 in NSLP and SBP.
Executive Summary NCA’s Cost and Administrative Burden Estimation (Comment 2)
The cost estimates provided in the proposed rules largely address those expected to be endured by schools. No cost estimates were given regarding the cost to the CACFP community with regard to the proposed terminology changes. In particular, the proposed terminology change from meat/meat alternate to protein sources, while seemingly insignificant, would create a substantial financial and administrative burden on CACFP stakeholders.
Furthermore, making this change in the CACFP and not in the SFSP will create an unnecessary administrative and financial burden for sponsors and operators who operate both programs.
When USDA estimates the true cost and administrative burden of these proposed rule changes for the CACFP community, NCA recommends USDA consider the cost to CACFP sponsoring organizations, CACFP providers, State Agencies, industry serving CACFP, and nonprofit organizations which support the CACFP community.