Starting in 2012, schools with federally subsidized lunch programs
began adding more fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods to meals.
But critics, including some Republicans and the School Nutrition
Association (SNA), a lobby group, say local school districts need
more time to adjust and too much of that healthful food ends up in
school trash bins, often uneaten.
In May, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee approved a
2015 agriculture budget that would allow some districts to opt out
of the nutritional standards if they found it too costly to comply.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture would establish a waiver process
for districts whose lunch programs operated at a net loss over six
Nationally, more than 30 million children participate in school
lunch programs each day. According to the SNA, some 1 million
students have opted out of school lunches in light of the stricter
In a position statement published online, the SNA says, “Under the
new nutrition standards implemented in 2012, school meal programs
have experienced increased costs and administrative burdens, while
struggling with student acceptance of new menu items and increased
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations
Agriculture Subcommittee, told Reuters Health he believes complaints
about the stricter standards are partly a normal reaction to change.
“Changing eating habits is very difficult,” he said. “The harsher
the comment, the more likely that that person has never supported
anything with the president or first lady.”
The rules are a major part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!”
campaign, an effort aiming to help reduce the number of overweight
and obese children across the nation.
Farr sponsored an amendment that would have removed the waiver from
the agriculture budget, but it was defeated 29 to 22, along party
lines. “I think this is an empowerment fight,” he added. “The
majority of Americans know we have eating problems in this country,
and feeding problems in the country, and they want to see a change.”
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Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, told Reuters
Health she believes recent reports of plate waste are greatly
“We don’t see evidence that kids are throwing away uneaten food.
What we know is that if you were going to go back five years ago, 10
years ago, 20 years ago, or even into the future, kids probably
don’t eat everything on their plate,” she said. "Plate waste is not
any worse because of the new standards."
In a statement issued after Farr’s amendment was defeated, she
wrote, “By giving special interests a seat at the school lunch
table, some members of Congress are putting politics before the
health of our children. Any attempt to suspend or abolish school
meal requirements will undermine parents’ efforts to keep their kids
healthy and put another generation of children on the highway to
heart disease and stroke.”
Brown told Reuters Health that children deserve healthier food. “We
have to get the food served at schools to be at the level where kids
have a fighting chance to grow up without having diseases that used
to be adult diseases. The opposition is creating an environment
where children will be put at risk.”
The House is expected to take up the bill in the coming weeks.
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