Schools to Feds: Healthy Lunches Too Costly

Youth obesity rates have recently shown improvement, and now the U.S. Senate is considering a waiver for schools that argue healthy-food standards are too expensive and ineffective.

file photo
file photo

By Melinda Carstensen

Should schools be allowed to opt out of certain school lunch nutrition standards?

Public schools have argued the standards set in 2012 are too costly and are wasteful. One school district in Alaska transferred $135,000 from its education fund to afford the mandates, according to a report from The Hill.

However, supporters say the program has gotten a bad rap and allowing schools to opt of standards meant to encourage children to eat healthfully would be a mistake.

The healthy-lunch program is an outgrowth of Michelle Obama’s anti-childhood-obesity campaign. Standards require public school cafeterias to serve whole grain-rich, lean meats, low-fat and low-sodium foods, in addition to fruits and vegetables.

In a private conference call that included the first lady before the House vote took place, the Washington Post reported Obama took an aggressive tone and vowed to fight any attempted rollback of her signature initiative. Pending legislation in Congress would allow schools to apply for waivers from the standards.

The aim of the healthy-lunch program was to help curb childhood obesity rates, and has been implemented at more than 90 percent of schools nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. However, schools in New York and Illinois, for example, have argued the requirements aren’t only expensive but ineffective as well.

"Forcing students to take a food they don't want on their tray has led to increased program costs, plate waste and a decline in student participation," the School Nutrition Association (SNA) wrote in a statement.

The SNA, which represents school food administrators, has estimated roughly 1 million fewer students participated in the school lunch program last year — due in part to the fed’s rules.

·      Is flexibility needed to continue healthy-lunch requirements at our public schools? Or is the program working as it should be?

"The House bill would undermine the effort to provide kids with more nutritious food and would be a major step backwards for the health of American children, just at the time childhood obesity rates are finally starting to level off,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement last week. “(The) USDA has continued to show flexibility in implementing these new standards, and Congress should focus on partnering with the USDA, states, schools, and parents to help our kids have access to more healthy food, not less."

A recent editorial in the Washington Post reviled waivers, and credited the decline in school lunch participation to fewer people paying full price, “not truly needy students going without subsidized meals.”

“If wealthier families want to feed their children other things with their own money, fine,” the Post writes. “Their choices should not be used as pretext to demand anything less than reasonable, healthy foods in publicly supported cafeterias.”

M C Stringfellow June 27, 2014 at 08:51 PM
Marlene was venting due to frustration. That's is what people do. You cannot tell me you never vent and use language that you might otherwise not use. First Lady is very much like her husband. Has not got a clue. It does not affect her chef in the kitchen at the white house. She does not have to worry where the money for her food is coming from. She does not have to shop at the grocery store and make the decision whether to pay for the milk or get two veggies for her kids. The average American learns to budget, neither of those two clowns can add a column of numbers Otherwise, if he could, the National debt would be lower. All F.L. is trying to do is make a mark on her tenure in the White House. Personally, I was pleased that she was not plastered all over the news for the last 6 years. Then she blew it by trying to be something she is not, a NUTRITIONIST
Marlene Mitchell June 28, 2014 at 03:58 PM
Ottmar Pak, Of course I am biased...so are you and everyone else that is posting here. We all have strong opinions but unfortunately "inflection" is missing from postings like these and a turn of phrase can be taken different ways if you can't hear the person speak it. Many of the posters here say things that they would probably be hesitant to voice in a crowd. That is human nature. To paraphrase Lincoln "The trouble with people is they feel the realm of truth always lies within their vision" I do not care for Obama and his view of what the USA should be. Am I disrespectful in my opinions of his actions.?...Hell Yes! I think the Federal Government should butt out of State issues and he feels that the Federal Government is the answer to everything.
Emmette Coleman July 07, 2014 at 04:56 PM
I question the whole premise here. Where in the Constitution is the Federal Government given the power to dictate healthy-food standards to public schools. Why should this program be forced on states and tribes that think this program is counter-productive, or think an alternative program would be more effective? This is a State issue, if you think this program is a good idea (and I'm not saying that is or isn't a good idea) get your state, local, or tribal government to implement it, but it's not the federal government's place to do so.


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