Faced with students who won’t buy lunches low in salt and sugar and jacked up with bland-tasting grains, the nation’s 54,000 school cafeteria workers are urging Washington to junk health-focused rules pushed by former first lady Michelle Obama.
Feeling that they have an ally on their side in the Trump administration, their lobby group, the School Nutrition Association, plans to press for less-strict restrictions on ingredients that taste good.
The reason is simple: Studies show that public school students aren’t eating what cafeterias are serving, turning many operations into money-losers. While the school districts can opt out, doing so results in federal subsidy cuts for those programs.
“Overly prescriptive regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste. Federal nutrition standards should be modified to help school menu planners manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes,” a new policy paper from the association said.
Salt’s a biggie, and the Department of Agriculture under former President Barack Obama was pressing for even lower amounts, which the association wants to shelve. It warned that “naturally occurring sodium present in meat, milk and other low-fat dairy foods will force schools to take nutritious choices off the menu, including many soups, entrée salads and low-fat deli sandwiches.”
Whole grains are a problem, too. The Obama administration pushed for expensive all-grain products to be used, forcing schools to spend more on the products kids won’t buy. As a result, they want that regulation eased.
“Students are eating more whole grain breads and rolls, but schools are struggling with limited availability of specialty whole grain items and meeting students’ regional and cultural preferences for certain refined grains, such as white rice, pasta, grits, bagels or tortillas,” said the policy paper.
The association’s plea is already heard in Congress. North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, who heads the House Freedom Caucus, is leading the fight to repeal the former first lady’s “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.”
“The federal government involving itself in what is served in school lunches is the epitome of government overreach,” Meadows told Secrets. “Districts that have chosen to opt out have been able to provide more options to students and better-quality services. At the beginning of the year, I released a report of more than 300 regulations the Trump administration can undo, which included overly burdensome federal lunch program standards. It’s the perfect example of how government interference generally makes a small problem far worse.”