Whatever goodwill first lady Michelle Obama had fostered back when her school nutrition plan was just a feel-good idea has eroded as the law it spawned – the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – has been enacted, often to a scornful reception, across the country.
Now one of the law’s main advocates has reversed its position on the law’s school lunch provisions by prevailing upon Congress to tweak the law so that students will have more food choices and school systems won’t lose money. The School Nutrition Association (SNA), which at first hailed the law, before observing how it affected school districts’ finances and students’ appetites, has come full circle.
According to EAG News – the advocacy publication for the nonpartisan Education Action Group Foundation, SNA, “which initially championed the new federal lunch standards on fruits, vegetables, salt, fat, sugar and virtually every other aspect of school lunches when they were implemented in 2012,” is lobbying for significant changes. Those who side with Obama accuse the organization of listening to attentively to the desires – and the contributions – of food vendors whose sales have taken a hit as kids pan school lunches, and as school systems order smaller portions to comply with the new standards.
“SNA critics contend the group sold out to big food companies that don’t like the ‘healthy’ lunch overhaul, but what they don’t discuss is the overwhelming evidence that many parents and school nutrition experts also dislike the new rules,” EAG wrote.
“Many student athletes, for example, have argued their limited-calorie lunches leave them famished. Parents have reported their children are now going without school lunch, then binge eating when they get home. Parents have also complained about ridiculously strict interpretations of the federal lunch rules, which have resulted in a ban on birthday cupcakes in classrooms, among other things.”
SNA wrote to Ms. Obama last month to request a meeting to address the organization’s concerns; that meeting will take place on July 10. In the meantime, an effort to grant school districts a one-year reprieve from the nutrition standards is making its way through the House.