Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Republicans take another shot at letting schools opt out of new school lunch rules

Republicans in Congress are not giving up on their quest to let schools temporarily opt out of healthier lunches. A stalled one-year waiver by House Republicans "that would allow schools to opt out of the standards if they lost money on meal programs over a six-month period" is gaining new life "as lawmakers are expected to pass a catchall spending bill to keep government programs running," reports The Associated Press.

The waiver was written by Republican Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, a state where 18.6 percent of all children ages 10 to 17 are obese, and 32.4 percent of adults are obese.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said "there are ongoing negotiations between the House and the Senate over the waiver," AP reports. "A Senate bill approved by a spending committee in May did not include the waiver but called for further study on sodium and whole grains requirements. At the time, Hoeven said there was not enough support for the House's one-year waiver in the Senate, even though he was supportive of it himself. But he said this week that could change as lawmakers negotiate the massive year-end spending bill."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "said 'lowering standards for school lunches for our children' is one of a few 'very destructive riders' that would be unacceptable to Democrats in the spending bill," AP reports. First Lady Michelle Obama, who has pushed for healthier meals, said this summer that she would "fight 'until the bitter end' to make sure kids have good nutrition in schools."

The School Nutrition Association has joined several major food companies to oppose the rules. Some students have refused to eat the healthier foods and have gone to social media to post photos of what they say are unappetizing meals. After a recent tour of schools U.S. Department of Agriculture deputy under secretary for food Janey Thornton said school lunches are too short to eat healthy meals.

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