STORM LAKE, Iowa – Iowa Rep. Steve King wants to dump Michelle Obama’s school food restrictions.
He thinks the federal restrictions on calories, fat, sugar, sodium and other elements of school food imposed through the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act is accomplishing exactly the opposite of what was intended by leaving students hungry and unprepared to learn, according to the The Daily Reporter.
“Spring is here – it’s that time of year again where kids are outside exercising and playing, but also studying and learning,” King said. “I have reintroduced the ‘No Hungry Kids Act’ to help our student be the best they can be.
“The USDA has set a calorie limit on school lunches. The goal of the school lunch program was – and is – to ensure students receive enough nutrition to be healthy and to learn,” he continued. “The misguided nanny state, as advanced by Michelle Obama’s Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act, was interpreted by Secretary Vilsack to be a directive that, because some kids are overweight, he would put every child on a diet.
“Parents know that their kids deserve all the healthy and nutritious food they want,” King said.
So King re-introduced his No Hungry Kids Act, which would repeal the federal food restrictions imposed through the Healthy and Hunger Free Kids Act and would prohibit the USDA from setting calorie limits on school food. It would also ensure parents can send their children to school with the foods they want them to eat, according to the Reporter.
King first introduced the repeal legislation shortly after the current federal restrictions went into effect in 2012, after sampling the lunch served as Storm Lake Elementary, but Democrats who support the regulations outnumbered critics.
Storm Lake Elementary principal Juli Kwikkel told the Reporter she employed King’s help to address school lunches because too many students are forced to go hungry because of the new rules.
“Monday is always the worst,” Kwikkel said. “Often we have kids who haven’t eaten much for the weekend. After lunch, they are still going to be hungry.”
Roughly 70- to 80-percent of Storm Lake students rely on free or reduced-price lunches because many do not get quality meals at home. But the federal restrictions require the school to give those students beats and squash that end up in the garbage, while they’re forced to throw away hash browns or scalloped potatoes they would eat because of the federal regulations, Kwikkel said.
“We are not a one-size-fits-all school,” she said. “We have some kids who will throw their food away, and others who lick the plate clean and are still quite hungry.”
The principal said she’s certainly not alone in the dilemma.
“In talking to some of my friends who are principals around the country, some schools are starting to opt out of the hot lunch program” because of the regulations, Kwikkel said.
In fact, hundreds of schools across the country have come to the realization that they’re better off, both financially and nutritionally, to abandon the National School Lunch Program to serve students foods they’ll actually eat. Many schools simply can’t afford to participate because the regulations contributed to a drastic drop in lunch revenue, the Associated Press reports.
That issue is in addition to more than $1 billion in school food waste nationally tied to the federal school food restrictions, particularly the mandate that all students take a fruit or vegetable, whether they want one or not.
Other conservative lawmakers like U.S. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota have suggested fixes to the Michelle Obama’s regulations, such as tweaking the sodium or whole grain requirements, but King is the first to pursue a full repeal in the current legislative session.