Arizona Legislature Approves Teacher Lunches During School Events – But Only If They Meet School Nutrition Guidelines

boards acting under this legal authority would be subject to the Arizona Gift Clause

By Corinne Murdock

The Arizona legislature has voted to allow schools to feed teachers during school events – but only if they use Arizona Department of Education (ADE) nutritional guidelines. That means that teacher meals will be constrained to the five food group components of meat/meat based alternatives, grains, vegetables, fruit, and fluid milk.

One of the nutritional standards is zero grams of trans fat. That would nix out fried foods, like doughnuts, and certain baked goods like biscuits or crackers. Further, there are limits on the types of desserts made available. Any grain-based desserts can only be offered at a rate of 2.0 oz/eq of grain a week.

More leeway exists with the USDA guidelines for “Smart Snacks” – those food or drink items sold elsewhere, like through vending machines. It is unclear if the bill will allow schools to provide meals to teachers with foods or drinks that would qualify as “smart snack” items – such as candy or sodas. The “smart snacks” are technically considered “competitive” foods to meals provided through the school.

No analysis of the estimated fiscal impact accompanied the bill.

The Senate passed the bill enabling school boards to provide food and drinks during district events on Tuesday. The bill also clarified that boards acting under this legal authority would be subject to the Arizona Gift Clause.

State Representative Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson) is the sponsor on the bill. The House Education Committee recommended the bill for passage quickly.

“Statutes don’t explicitly allow school districts to be able to provide food for teacher trainings, board meetings, [etcetera,]” explained Hernandez, in brief.

No further questions were asked of the bill.

Only six House members voted against the bill, all Republican. State Representatives Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa), Judy Burges (R-Prescott), Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert), Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), Bret Roberts (R-Maricopa), and Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) voted no.

An amendment to the bill, introduced by Hernandez in February, deleted the provision that would’ve enabled school boards to provide food and drinks via a cafe open to the public. Another amendment to the bill was what added the stipulation that these food and drink provisions would be subject to the Arizona Gift Clause, added by the Senate Education Committee.

The Senate passed along the bill quickly without discussion. Six senators voted against the bill, all Republicans again – State Senators Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), David Livingston (R-Peoria), Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale), Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), and Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert).

The bill will now head to the governor’s desk for approval.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.

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