Each Friday I compile a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the news that week and why you should care about them.
Here’s your list for the week of May 22:
1. Trump budget proposes to cut domestic spending
President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request to Congress calls for a $3.6 trillion cut in spending over the coming decade, including a $57 billion reduction (about 10.6 percent) in non-defense programs for fiscal 2018. For the USDA, among the heaviest hits seem to be to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which will see a reduction of $192 billion over the decade if the proposed budget were to be adopted.
Neither school meal programs nor the USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service unit were specifically mentioned in the press briefing given by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Young on May 23 to introduce the department’s budget proposal. The School Nutrition Association says it is currently “reviewing the budget in detail, paying special attention to White House recommendations related to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and any impacts to school meal programs.”
One potential indication of White House thinking on the matter may have come from Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney the previous day during an off-camera briefing with reporters to discuss the 2018 budget proposal.
In that briefing, while Mulvaney never specifically alluded to child nutrition or school meal programs, he did indicate that the White House would “take a really, really hard look at unauthorized programs. We've not finished counting yet, but I think the last time anybody counted, it was close to $300 billion—$300 billion of money that we spend every single year on unauthorized programs. What does that mean? It means that Congress has not seen fit to extend programs that by their natural terms are supposed to expire.”
Congress has yet to reauthorize the 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.
“So if they're not important enough for Congress to take up, are they really important for me to spend your money on?” Mulvaney added. “And I think that's a valid conversation and drives a large part of what we're trying to do in the budget.”
2. University of Colorado gets one-year exemption on soda tax
The university was given the exemption after asking the city council for the exemption. Auxiliary Services thought the 2-cents-per-ounce tax would not apply to it as the university is a state entity and the tax is a city ordinance. However, it is levied through the distributor so the university will end up paying the tax that way. UC Boulder had asked for a two-year exemption to coordinate with its contract with PepsiCo.
3. University probes “criminal conspiracy” over dining flex dollars
Students are under investigation at Johnson C. Smith University over what the college is calling a “criminal conspiracy” over dining flex dollars that were used at two campus dining locations. According to the Charlotte Observer, dining employees at the two locations were adding flex dollars to student accounts. The university’s foodservice program is managed by Perkins Management Services. One estimate puts the amount of potential fraudulent transactions at 300.
4. Texas introduces new school lunch “shaming” bill
In the latest in the school lunch “shaming” saga, the Texas House has passed an amendment that would “give meals to students without money in their school lunch accounts—and also give them a grace period to resolve insufficient balances,” according to the Texas Tribune. The amendment was similar to a bill that had been killed in the House, which would mandate those rules. Once again, this amendment does not address the issue at heart and only puts into law what schools are already doing—feeding students with unpaid meal accounts.
5. VA hospital admin knew about roach problem, did nothing to address it
Hines VA Hospital outside Chicago says it has solved an ongoing problem with cockroaches in its program—including some being served on patient trays. As if the situation itself weren’t bad enough, a recently released report by the Department of Veteran Affairs found that the hospital leadership knew about the issue and did not to resolve it. The foodservice program also had issues with other pests. The report said understaffing contributed to the unsanitary conditions, and the hospital said it was working on a long-term solution, including a possible remodel of the kitchen.
Contact Becky Schilling at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @bschilling_FM