Senators claim victory in school lunch 'battle'

 

Several senators declared victory after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to change the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program requirements to allow more flexibility with calorie caps.

“This has been a battle for common sense in the cafeteria,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said Friday. “These guidelines were leaving students hungry throughout the school day and athletic events; in the end we were able to convince USDA to listen to reason.”

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Last year, the USDA issued a rule restricting how many calories a child could consume by changing school lunch menus. The administration was trying to react to the childhood obesity epidemic, but some lawmakers complained the administration went too far.

“Today, the USDA made the permanent changes we have been seeking to the School Lunch Program,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said. “A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet federal requirements.”

Hoeven and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) recently introduced a bill called the Sensible School Lunch Act that did the same thing as this recent USDA decision to repeal limits on the amount of grains and protein that could be served in a school lunch.

“I’m glad the USDA followed our lead and made these much-needed administrative changes that will give our school districts the permanent flexibility they need to keep our kids healthy and successful,” Pryor said.

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Roberts, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) co-sponsored the bill.

Under the final rule — which will be printed in the Federal Register on Friday — schools will be considered compliant with the new meal requirements if they meet the weekly minimums for grain and meat or meat-alternates, as well as the total calorie ranges.