In late 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its final rule for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, requiring new standards for school meals. After hearing feedback from parents, school districts and Congressional members, USDA provided greater flexibility in implementing the rule when it comes to meeting the grain and protein requirements.
A new House bill – the Sensible School Lunch Act - was introduced to make that flexibility permanent by Rep. Rick Crawford (R., Ark.), Tim Griffin (R., Ark.), Steve Womack (R., Ark.) and Tom Cotton (R., Ark.).
The bill is a companion bill to bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators John Hoeven (R., N.D.) and Mark Pryor (D., Ark.). The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has already endorsed the Senate bill.
The Sensible School Lunch Act would allow more flexible portions of proteins and grains in the federal school meals program, while leaving in place the rest of the regulation, including the total calorie cap and its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non-fat dairy selections. At the same time, the total calorie cap remains in place to ensure healthy meals in proportion, and allowable fruits are increased as compared to before, and vegetable servings are unlimited.
Crawford said the bill addresses concerns he heard from school administrators, parents, nutritionists and teachers last fall when he hosted a Nutrition Summit last fall and gives individual school districts the flexibility they need to feed their students.
“Washington’s latest top-down, factory-like approach to school nutrition is a disservice to students and an affront to parents. Our legislation is a bottom-up, natural approach that allows parents and school administrators to decide what food options are right for their students,” said Griffin.
“From state to state, from county to county, and even from school district to school district, no school, nor its students, is the same,” said Womack. “The Sensible School Lunch Act grants those who know their students best the flexibility needed to give them the most nutritious meals possible instead of having to comply with the USDA's one-size-fits-all policy.”
“As we’ve seen time and time again, a national one-size-fits-all strategy is not the answer when it comes to our school children—and their nutrition is no different,” said Cotton. “This legislation empowers local officials to interpret national school lunch and breakfast nutrition guidelines according to their students’ needs.”