389: Seeking School Lunch Comments, Debt Ceiling Discussions

Shannon Vance, ASTHO’s Senior Analyst, Family and Child Health, encourages ASTHO members to comment on the USDA's proposed standards for school lunch and breakfast programs; Jeffrey Ekoma, ASTHO’s Senior Director of Government Affairs, outlines...

Shannon Vance, ASTHO’s Senior Analyst, Family and Child Health, encourages ASTHO members to comment on the USDA's proposed standards for school lunch and breakfast programs; Jeffrey Ekoma, ASTHO’s Senior Director of Government Affairs, outlines the debt ceiling discussions happening between Congress and the White House; our coverage of National Public Health Week starts Monday; and the ASTHO Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum announces Google as a gold sponsor.

Federal Register: Child Nutrition Programs

USDA Takes Long-Term Look at Nutrition Standards

National Public Health Week Daily Themes

Public Health TechXpo and Futures Forum



ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, March 31st, 2023. I'm Robert Johnson. Now today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.



School meals are often the most nutritious meal a child will eat in their day, so it's important that the meals being offered maintain a certain quality.



ASTHO's Shannon Vance on the USDA's plans to update school lunch and breakfast guidelines.



These new standards align the school meals with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which focus on individual nutrition needs across the lifespan instead of on individual nutrients or food groups. This is really of the utmost importance for school aged children as there's so much growth and development happening in such a short amount of time.



Vance encourages ASTHO members to comment on the new guidelines adding input is critical to the process.



So, the USDA is seeking public input on the changes to these nutritional standards. So, state health officials, their staff, and other nutrition professionals are encouraged to provide comment on the proposed changes. This proposed final rule is open for comment now and will remain open until April 10th.



You can submit comments using a link to the federal register page that we've included in today's show notes. You can also read a new ASTHO blog article about the proposed changes. That link is in the show notes as well. It's been another busy week in Congress. In addition to several hearings on various topics, there were discussions about the debt ceiling. Here to tell us about all of it is ASTHO's Senior Director of Government Affairs Jeffrey Ekoma, with the latest "View from Washington D.C." report.


You mentioned last week that there were a couple of hearings on Capitol Hill this week. Is there anything that you can tell us about how those panels went? Anything ASTHO members ought to know?



Of course, HHS Secretary Javier Becerra testified before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services. There were many discussions about finding solutions to address chronic diseases, addressing maternal and infant mortality, and reproductive care.


There were also discussions about the potential applications from Republican proposed cuts to HHS budget that range anywhere between 20% and 25%. Secretary Becerra also provided testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, and similar themes emerged. There were discussions on health care coverage, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), rural health and telehealth.



There's been a lot of discussion about the debt ceiling this week, much of that going on between Congress and the president. What can you tell us about those talks?



Yeah, they're beginning to pick up a little bit, but not to the extent that I think everyone can be comfortable with. So, Speaker McCarthy recently sent a letter to President Biden to reengage on discussions related to increasing our nation's debt limit.


There were some key things from his letter for everyone's awareness, and they include his interest in cutting excessive non-defense spending, clawing back on spent pandemic aid, tightening work requirements for entitlement programs, enacting policies to lower energy cost, and taking steps to stop the illegal importation of fentanyl.


The President has maintained his position of passing a clean debt ceiling increase, which would exclude any discussions on fiscal policy. It's expected that we'll hit our borrowing limit sometime this summer. And there have been documented concerns from members on the Hill that a road to resolution is possibly getting more difficult with each passing day. Overall, developments on the debt ceiling are things that we'll continue to monitor and obviously provide updates to our members on.



Of course, we're in the middle of a session, which means there's something happening every single day in Congress. It's Friday, we're thinking about next week, what should we keep an eye on starting Monday?



Yeah, so Congress is actually going to be on recess or district work period for the next couple of weeks, which really gives us an opportunity to really focus on a lot of really important things are happening on our team. And one really big thing that our team will be doing is conducting Hill visits with House and Senate Appropriations staff to continue to emphasize our FY 24 funding priority. So, we're really looking forward to doing that.



Jeffrey Ekoma., thank you for joining us this week with a "View from Washington, D.C."



Thank you.



Also, National Public Health Week starts Monday, we'll cover each of the week's daily themes, including conversations about violence prevention, mental health, and food and nutrition. The American Public Health Association has a website with facts sheets and other resources supporting each day's topic. You can get there using the link in the show notes.


Finally, this morning Google Health is a Gold sponsor of this year's TechXpo and Futures Forum in Chicago. Google Health is committed to helping everyone everywhere be healthier through products and services that connect and bring meaning to health information. You can learn more and sign up for the event using the links in the show notes.


That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back Monday morning with more ASTHO news and information. I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great weekend.

Shannon Vance MPH

Senior Analyst, Family and Child Health, ASTHO

Jeffrey Ekoma

Senior Director, Government Affairs, ASTHO