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January 20 2016

Michelle Obama May Have to Swallow Changes to Her School Lunch Rules

Patrice J. Lee

The food fight between First Lady Michelle Obama and school administrators over school lunch may be over. The Senate has unveiled bipartisan legislation to scale back the strict school lunch regulations that have left kids frustrated and hungry.

This compromise doesn’t go as far as attempts by conservatives in the House to exempt schools from the rules entirely, but it does ease the burdens on schools trying to comply with the new regulations in order to qualify for federal aid.

The bill would force the Department of Agriculture to revise whole grain and sodium standards within 90 days of the bill’s enactment. The whole grain requirements apparently are a major problem. Currently, schools must ensure that 80 percent of grains in meals are whole grain rich which means there are not a lot of choices.

As a result of the rules so dear to Mrs. Obama schools are struggling under piles of wasted food.  Meanwhile, kids are going hungry and then indulging in food from convenience stores and fast food restaurants after school. For schools, the waste is a major blow to their budgets and for kids it can affect their ability to study and learn.

The proposed bill also grants schools an extra two years to comply with lower sodium standards in meals and it requires a study to see if less sodium is actually effective.

Most involved in the school lunch fight are supportive of what may finally be a truce. Mrs. Obama vowed just last year to fight “until the bitter end” to defend her school lunch regulations despite the uproar in cafeterias, but she has only one year left as first lady and then it will be harder to preserve these enormously unpopular rules.

AP reports:

The School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools, said it is supportive of the agreement negotiated by Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

"In the absence of increased funding, this agreement eases operational challenges and provides school meal programs critical flexibility to help them plan healthy school meals that appeal to students," the association's president, Jean Ronnei, said.

The White House has yet to weigh in, but committee aides said the administration was involved in negotiations and is expected to be supportive. The aides declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the legislation.

Nutrition advocates who have fiercely defended the rules were also positive.

"Given all of the aggressive lobbying against school nutrition over the past few years, it's remarkable that the Senate bill is as strong a way forward as it is," said Margo Wootan of the Center for Science and the Public Interest.

What’s interesting as the Daily Caller highlights is that Michelle Obama has used her star power and influence with Washington regulators to force kids to eat what even her own daughters are not eating. Sasha and Mahlia Obama attend private school in Washington, D.C., where they eat chef-inspired meals.

Meanwhile, students who can't afford pricey private schools are turning to social media to protest the paltry portion sizes and unappetizing, unrecognizable food on their plates. The hashtag #thanksmichelleobama says it all.

Schools can excuse themselves from these onerous regulations by refusing to accept the federal tax dollars that subsidize free and reduced lunch. So it'd poor kids who have had to swallow Mrs. Obama's dietary rules.

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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