GOP bill seeks to overhaul school lunches


Legislation from Rep. Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemOvernight Finance: Congress struggles to strike funding deal as deadline nears | Immigration, ObamaCare, Gateway project divide lawmakers | FTC to probe Facebook | Mnuchin plays hardball on tariffs White House signals commitment to push for expanded online sales tax collections GOP leaders see finish line on omnibus deal MORE (R-S.D.) would overhaul the federal school lunch program by loosening standards on the meals served to the nation’s students.

The Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, set to be introduced on Thursday, would eliminate some of the provisions passed three years ago in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which Noem decried as a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Regulations from the 2010 bill went into place last year, giving the Agriculture Department the authority to set nutritional standards for food sold in school cafeterias and vending machines.

The bill was a high priority for first lady Michelle Obama.

But Noem and other critics have said that the law set overly strict rules that makes it difficult to prepare food to feed all appetites. As a result, some children have gone hungry, they said. 

“Current school lunch standards place an unnecessary burden on school administrators, especially in some of our smaller school districts, our poorest counties and our reservations, and send many of our kids home feeling hungry,” Noem said in a statement when the bill was first unveiled in South Dakota last week.

Last December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture temporarily suspended the law’s limits on grains and meat in daily lunches.

The new legislation would eliminate those limits permanently, and allow schools to have more flexibility about what they feed their students.

The National School Boards Association, which represents state school board associations, supports the bill.

“The forward-thinking legislation Rep. Noem proposes would allow local school officials to design flexible school meal programs that meet the needs of local students and local communities to ensure that all of America's students gain access to tasty, healthy meals at school,” Lucy Gettman, the organization’s director of federal programs, said in a statement.