The School Nutrition Association and its 55,000 member food service professionals sent a clear message to Congress about the state of the nation’s cafeteria offerings to kids: First lady Michelle Obama’s regulations (lunch laws) have got to go, they said.
In a 2015 Position Paper, the SNA suggested Congress amend the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 — so kids aren’t so hungry, EAG.org reported. Basically, the organization requested lawmakers to take a second look at the law and loosen some of the calorie, fat and sodium regulations. Perhaps then, the group argued, more children would go back to buying school lunches.
“USDA data shows that since the new rules were implemented, 1.4 million fewer children choose school lunch each day,” EAG.org reported. “Declining student participation reduces meal program revenue for schools already stressed by higher food and labor costs under the new regulations.”
SNA also said the federal lunch regulations were also proving costly to taxpayers.
“USDA estimates the new rules add $1.2 billion to the cost of preparing school meals in Fiscal Year 2015 alone,” the report says, EAG.org reported. “As a result, only half of school meal program operators anticipate their programs will break even at the end of this school year, according to a recent SNA survey.”
A separate report found similarly — that the regulatory atmosphere was creating a costly situation for schools and taxpayers. EAG.org reported that Cornell and Brigham Young University found that the requirement that students take a fruit or vegetable with their lunches — even if they don’t want it — is adding an extra $684 million to the food waste category.
SNA doesn’t want to do away with federal controls over school lunches entirely. Rather, the group seeks a loosening of some of the more restrictive and costly rules.
“SNA supports strong federal nutrition standards for school meals, including calorie caps and mandates to offer a greater quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables,” said SNA CEO Patricia Montague, EAG.org reported. “However, some of the USDA’s regulations under the law have unnecessarily increased costs and waste for school meal programs.”
Among SNA’s recommendations: Congress should increase the “per meal reimbursement for school breakfasts and lunches by 35 cents,” and lawmakers should return to the 2010 standards of requiring “at least half of all grains offered to be whole grain rich,” rather than the present 100 percent standard, EAG.org reported.