July 8 2014
A New Twist in the School Lunch War
Patrice J. Lee
In the latest twist to the school lunch food war, the School Nutrition Association -once a proponent of new school lunch regulations by the Obama Administration- has switched sides and now is lobbying to have them delayed and changed.
The association is leading the charge to allow schools to opt out of the school nutrition rules which it now considers “overly prescriptive” and costly. According to stunned former allies, this is an about face for a group that celebrated when the Obama Administration announced that it would be changing rules to add more fruits and vegetables and reduce sugar and salt in government-subsidized school meals.
According to the SNA, they welcomed the changes until they saw how stringent changes were and the response of the students. As we’ve reported, athletes are going hungry, children are throwing away their uneaten meals and many then go hungry then binging after school. The rules are so harsh that they even ban cuisine outside of the standard school meal like birthday cake – too much sugar I guess.
In return, schools are spending money that’s being wasted and in some cases spending more to comply with the new rules. That waste rings up to $684 million each year, according to SNA, and that’s school funding that could go to feed over 200 million students.
Given SNA’s change of heart, Congress is listening and considering legislation to delay nutrition rules for a year. SNA’s lobbying efforts also contributed to the House Appropriations Committee passing a spending bill with a provision allowing schools to waive the nutrition standards this coming school year with a full vote expected soon.
The New York Times reports:
The School Nutrition Association says it still supports healthier options for schoolchildren whose lunches are subsidized, but a major problem, the group said, is that children are simply throwing away the fruits and vegetables. The waste amounts to $684 million each year, said Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the group. That money, she said, “is enough to serve complete reimbursable school lunches to more than 228 million students.”
The School Nutrition Association’s aggressive lobbying has led to a backlash from other nutrition groups, parent-teacher organizations, food service workers unions and the powerful teachers’ union, the National Education Association, which counts cafeteria employees among its members.
Nineteen former presidents of the School Nutrition Association also have written a letter to Congress opposing legislation that would delay the school meal standards. Michelle Obama has weighed in, too.
The School Nutrition Association’s current president, Leah Schmidt, a school nutrition official from Kansas City, Missouri, said criticism of its corporate support distracted from the real issues, and food companies have only one representative on the group’s board of directors.
Critics of SNA’s decision claim they have “sold their souls to the devil” because they are taking to heart the widely reported dissatisfaction with the new school lunch regulations from school administrators, students, and parents. They say nothing about a federal audit that finds the changes have been disastrous, causing problems for schools trying to comply with the rules and leaving the menu so expensive or unpalatable that more than 1 million students have stopped buying lunch.
It may be that some schools have been able to transition well, but there is no evidence that the majority have.
Those fighting alongside FLOTUS and the Department of Agriculture are beneficiaries of greater federal control over schools and school lunches. Nutrition rules are a tactic in a larger effort to expand government control over the lives of young Americans in school.
Teaching children to eat and appreciate a healthy lunch is an admirable goal, but when parents are left out of the decision-making process entirely, it sends the message that our government feels parents are incapable of teaching their own children what’s best for them.
As we’ve always said, feeding a child is a basic parental responsibility. Government would do better to encourage greater parental responsibility over their child’s needs rather than play mom or dad and force kids to eat what it arbitrarily thinks is best, but is not.