First lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to combat child obesity by scaling back calories served up in public schools has been unpopular and counterproductive. Her role in folding the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into the overarching agenda of her “Let’s Move!” childhood obesity program may be starting to fade, though.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week it will permanently relax rules that limit public schools’ lunchroom options, including calorie count and portion sizes, affirming the agency’s face-saving 2012 decision to temporarily lift those same requirements in the face of public backlash.
Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota announced Friday that the USDA had agreed to loosen those requirements to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program.
“A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet federal requirements. These are exactly the changes included in our Sensible School Lunch Act.”
Senator Mark Pryor (D- Ark.) said he and Hoeven, both of whom have been outspoken critics of the 2010 legislation, took point in applauding the changes.
“After hearing from educators, parents, and students, Senator Hoeven and I stepped in to help school districts who were frustrated with the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program’s strict new rules,” Pryor said Friday. “I’m glad the USDA followed our lead and made these much-needed administrative changes that will give our school districts the permanent flexibility they need to keep our kids healthy and successful.”
“Today, the USDA made the permanent changes we have been seeking to the School Lunch Program,” Hoeven added. “A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet Federal requirements. These are exactly the changes included in our Sensible School Lunch Act.”
The Sensible School Lunch Act is a bill that would amend standing Federal law governing school lunch programs so that school districts would have more flexibility in choosing how to configure their menus at the local level. It was introduced in March of 2013 in the House by Congressman Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), and has been dormant since then.
It’s great that Obama’s rubber-stamp approach to school lunches was so unpopular that it ultimately failed, but the manner in which the rules were changed begs one question: How is the USDA’s administrative tweak any different from the dozens of administrative tweaks the Department of Health and Human Services has made to Obamacare, all at the President’s behest?
The modifications were aimed at limiting fat and salt, reducing portion sizes and increasing fruit and vegetable servings. For kindergarteners through fifth-graders, their meals were capped at 650 calories. Sixth- through eighth-graders were allowed 700 calories per meal, while high school students got 850.