American Heart Association petition aims to save school lunch rules

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The American Heart Association (AHA) will formally launch a petition Tuesday to keep first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaThe Trail 2016: Miss Universe crashes campaign Former Miss Universe becomes surprise story to emerge from debate Michelle Obama’s moving woes MORE’s school lunch regulations in place.

The health group is fighting back against special interest groups that are lobbying Congress to roll back requirements that now force schools to serve 100 percent whole grain-rich products, further reduce sodium content by 2017 and make students take a half-cup of fruit or vegetables with each meal.

The petition, which is already up on www.change.org, will officially go live Tuesday, as the House Education and the Workforce Committee discusses whether the rules in the 2010 Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act serve the best interests of schools and families. Congress is considering whether to reauthorize the legislation that’s set to expire on Sept. 30.

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In its petition, AHA said 95 percent of schools are meeting the requirements of the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act, and students are eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit, all while getting less salt, fat and sugar.

“With many children getting 50 percent or more of their daily calories in school, making sure these foods are nutritious is critical, and studies show that kids who eat healthy do better in the classroom,” the petition says.

But members of the School Nutrition Association (SNA) say student participation in their school lunch programs has declined and more food is going to waste as a result of the provisions.

In some districts, administrators have said menu changes are pushing students to order fast food and run to 7-Eleven for Big Gulps at the end of the school day.

“We’re asking for just some sensible flexibility around a few things that were included in the act,” Lynn Harvey, chief of school nutrition services at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, said in a congressional staff briefing hosted by SNA last week.