Using school-meal programs to fight childhood obesity isn't going as smoothly as Michelle Obama hoped, mostly because some kids are turning down fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods in favor of fatty, sugary alternatives. From 2011 to 2013, more more than 1,400 schools with over 1 million children dropped out of the National School Lunch Program, Erik Wasson reports for The Hill. And now school boards, backed by Republican lawmakers, are asking Congress to let them opt out of the program if they're losing money on it.
A Republican House subcommittee on Tuesday approved a spending bill that "would force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give a temporary waiver to school lunch programs that can show they were operating at a net loss for the last six months," Wasson writes. "That provision is supported by the National School Boards Association as well as the School Nutrition Association. They also support other efforts, including a bill by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) to stop imposition of more stringent standards coming down the pike." (Read more)
At the heart of school complaints are 2012 standards that "call for students to be served low-fat dairy products, lean protein, foods rich in whole grain and fruits and vegetables," notes The Washington Post editorial board. "Children can decline part of these balanced meals, but they must take at least one serving of fruits or vegetables. These standards weren’t developed by fringe food activists or imposed from the first lady’s office. They come from the Agriculture Department and are based on recommendations from experts at the Institute of Medicine. Given that a third of American children and teenagers are overweight or obese, this initiative is common sense."
"Ripping a hole in the law would be a mistake," the Post opines. "The Government Accountability Office found that the decline in school lunch participation has been driven by 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. Their choices should not be used as pretext to demand anything less than reasonable, healthy foods in publicly supported cafeterias." (Read more)