This week, while some in Congress, with the backing of the School Nutrition Association, are aiming to gut school lunch regulations, new research shows how misguided their efforts are.
Let’s start with the legislation.
Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) recently announced that he would introduce legislation to lower requirements on whole grains and sodium levels in meals at schools, according to Lydia Wheeler of the Hill. Hoeven (whose track record includes being a sponsor for the Keystone XL bill) argues that he is not opposed to the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), but wants to have the “flexibility to do it right.” Wheeler explains what Hoeven’s “flexibility” will mean:
Under Hoeven’s legislation, schools would be allowed to revert back to 2012 standards, which require at least half of all grains served in a school breakfast and lunch to be whole-grain rich. The standard now is for 100 percent of all grains offered to be whole-grain rich."
Hoeven and others such as the SNA argue that kids are turning up their noses at the healthier food mandated by regulations because they don’t like it. And yet studies prove otherwise: The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at University of Connecticut (formerly at Yale) just published a report on fruit consumption and plate waste in schools, and Ron Nixon of the New York Times explains that the study followed students in 12 schools for the years before and after the regulations of HHFKA were enacted. Researchers found a 12% increase in fruit consumption and a 13% reduction in food waste. That’s great news.
And last month the Union of Concerned Scientists published Lessons from the Lunchroom a report showing how USDA free-and-reduced-price (FRP) programs in schools improve school lunches and overall student health. From the UCS report synopsis:
The report shows that school lunch programs have a positive impact on the eating habits of students. Fifth grade FRP meal participants ate fruits and vegetables 22.2 times per week on average, versus 18.9 times for non-FRP participants. While both groups ate fewer fruits and vegetables in eighth grade, FRP meal participants continued to eat them more often than their non-FRP peers (19.2 vs. 17.6 times per week)."
It’s true that there may be growing pains as HHFKA regulations continue to ramp up, but wouldn’t we rather see schools face those pains now with federal support, as opposed to see continued degradation of nutrition in the U.S?
If you agree, UCS has a petition demanding that Congress uphold and even improve the nutrition standards as the HHFKA faces its renewal this year.Let’s continue to support our kids and support our future.
GOP looks to take a bite out of school lunch regs via The Hill
More Children Eat Fruit in School, Study Shows via The New York Times
2015 REPORT: Lessons from the Lunchroom via Union of Concerned Scientists