Thursday, November 17, 2011

Congress may block new school-lunch rules

Some in Congress are trying to block the Obama administration's call for healthier school lunches proposed by the Department of Agriculture earlier this year. The changes would have limited potato and salt use and increased use of whole grains. New legislation introduced in a spending bill will block or delay those changes, and allow tomato paste on pizza to be considered a vegetable.

Mary Jalonick of The Associated Press reports that "school meals that are subsidized by the federal government must include a certain amount of vegetables, and USDA’s proposal could have pushed pizza-makers and potato growers out of the school lunch business." Conservatives are saying government shouldn't tell kids what to eat and school districts say the proposed changes would put added strain on already tight budgets. Jalonick reports schools follow guidelines on free or reduced lunches for low-income students, but now are upset about the government telling "them exactly what foods they can't serve."

USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said the changes are "necessary to reduce childhood obesity and future health care costs." Spokespeople say USDA will continue to work toward healthier lunches. Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the bill would slow efforts to make pizza more healthy. Since obesity has become the main medical disqualifier for military service, a group of retired generals called Mission:Readiness called the move a national security issue. (Read more)

1 comment:

Michele Hays said...

FYI: the suggested requirement is to increase the amount of tomato sauce from 2 tbs (on a typical pizza) to 1/4 cup - not to eliminate pizza. Also, starchy vegetables are to be reduced, not eliminated, and thus not "pushed out" of school lunch.

The government is already telling schools what they can and can't serve - except that up until now, the drivers of those rules were billion-dollar industries Campbell's, Tyson, Nabisco and others. These companies - whose billionaire CEOs stand to gain most from school lunch staying the same - aren't farmers or factory workers, but they've learned they can get what they want by presenting themselves that way.