GOP bill would repeal Agriculture Dept. calorie caps on school lunches

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced legislation that would repeal a U.S. Department of Agriculture rule that puts a cap on the number of calories in school lunches served to children.

King's No Hungry Kids Act, H.R. 6418, would eliminate new USDA guidelines that say children in kindergarten through fifth grade can be served meals containing up to 650 calories, while meals for sixth through eighth graders can have 700 calories, and meals for high schoolers can have 850 calories.

"For the first time in history, the USDA has set a calorie limit on school lunches," King said last week. "The goal of the school lunch program was — and is — to insure students receive enough nutrition to be healthy and to learn.

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"The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama's 'Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act,' was interpreted by Secretary [Tom] Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet. Parents know that their kids deserve all of the healthy and nutritious food they want."

USDA announced the new policy earlier this year, and was set to start phasing it in during the current school year. When it announced the plan in January, USDA's release included remarks from first lady Michelle Obama.

"As parents, we try to prepare decent meals, limit how much junk food our kids eat, and ensure they have a reasonably balanced diet," she said. "And when we're putting in all that effort the last thing we want is for our hard work to be undone each day in the school cafeteria.

"When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won't be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home. We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables."

Another Republican sponsor of the bill, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), said the new guidelines are a "perfect example of what is wrong with government: misguided inputs, tremendous waste, and unaccomplished goals."

Aside from battling Vilsack's school lunch policy, King is also in an election battle with Vilsack's wife, Christie, to represent Iowa in its new fourth district.

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