WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new position paper from the School Nutrition Association – which represents about 57,000 school food service directors – is calling for changes to “overly prescriptive regulations” imposed on schools by former first lady Michelle Obama.
The SNA contends “overly prescriptive regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste,” according to its recently released 2017 Position Paper.
“Federal nutrition standards should be modified to help school menu planners manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes.”
The SNA has repeatedly called on Congress in recent years to relax regulations included in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by former first lady Michelle Obama since they went into effect in 2012.
More than 1.4 million students dropped out of the National School Lunch Program because of the changes, which have also created a roughly $1 billion in food waste from students who trash most of their government lunches.
The 2017 Position Paper also follows calls from the House Freedom Caucus in December to repeal the regulations.
“The rules are hallmarks of the Obama administration, but kids aren’t eating the foods, industries can’t comply with the standards, and schools are wasting money,” according to the Freedom Caucus report, First 100 Days: Rules, Regulations, and Executive Orders to Examine, Revoke, and Issue.
“The federal government involving itself in what is served in school lunches is the epitome of government overreach,” North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told the Washington Examiner.
“Districts that have chosen to opt out have been able to provide more options to students and better-quality services,” he said. “At the beginning of the year, I released a report of more than 300 regulations the Trump administration can undo, which included overly burdensome federal lunch program standards.
“It’s the perfect example of how government interference generally makes a small problem worse.”
While it’s clear the SNA opposes some of the Michelle Obama-inspired regulations, it clearly does not support a full repeal of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
“While school meals should continue to meet robust federal nutrition standards, requirements must be streamlined to ease regulatory burdens and preserve the financial sustainability of school meal programs,” the SNA wrote.
More than 500 entire schools have ditched the NSLP over declining cafeteria sales from scores of students who refuse to eat the unappetizing offerings, and the SNA is asking Congress to inject a little flavor back into school meals.
The SNA wants lawmakers to “maintain the Target 1 sodium levels and eliminate future targets” for salt reductions.
“The Institute of Medicine warned that ‘reducing sodium content of school meals as specified and in a way that is well accepted by students will present major challenges and may not be possible,’” according to the Position Paper.
The SNA is also asking Congress to roll back whole-grain rich requirements.
“The current mandate that all grains offered be whole grain rich has increased waste and costs, while contributing to the decline in student lunch participation,” the Position Paper states. “Students are eating more whole grain breads and rolls, but schools are struggling with limited availability of specialty whole grain items and meeting students’ regional cultural preferences for certain refined grains, such as white rice, pasta, grits, bagels or tortillas.”
The SNA also wants federal lawmakers to devote $1 million “to conduct an independent study of the federal Child Nutrition Programs” to “simplify regulations to improve efficiencies.”
“Program complexities add to school nutrition costs,” the SNA wrote. “Duplicate and overly burdensome administrative mandates divert school nutrition professionals’ attention from their mission of nourishing students.”