The House Education and Labor Committee has approved legislation to boost nutritional standards of all food served and sold in schools, impose new requirements for training, and other requirements for schools.
NSBA has concerns about the implementation and funding levels in the committee’s version of the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization, dubbed the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act.’ A July 14 letter to Rep. George Miller, the chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, expresses concerns about local control and the costs of implementing new requirements, particularly as schools face severe budget shortfalls.
“While this legislation is well intended, it over-reaches and underfunds its requirements on school districts at a time when the operational and financial consequences are too severe to be ignored,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant. “Without adequate funding, schools would find it difficult to comply with the proposed new standards, reporting, training, administration, and other mandates.”
Both the House and Senate bills would charge the Department of Agriculture (USDA) with establishing nutritional standards for all food and beverages available at schools, including vending machines, the school breakfast program, and after-school snacks. Based on guidelines proposed by the Institute of Medicine, an independent think tank that developed the recommendations, the changes would include, among other things, nixing all but skim and non-fat milk and setting limits on sodium and fat content.
Like its Senate counterpart, the “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act,” the House bill would provide more funds to reimburse schools for the costs of school lunches. But even its proposed $4.5 billion increase would only amount to an additional 6 cents per school meal, while some groups have estimated it will cost at least 20 cents more per meal to comply with the mandates and ensure all students are fed nutritious and wholesome meals. The school breakfast program would not receive any increase.
However, the bill and its Senate counterpart have significant support from other education groups and the White House, which is promoting nutrition through First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.