The National School Boards Association (NSBA) successfully supported language in the U.S. House of Reprepesentative’s fiscal year 2015 funding bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to grant flexibility and relief from certain requirements for school meals and competitive foods standards.
The bill, approved by subcommittee this week, would require USDA to establish a waiver process for schools that cannot comply with national nutrition standards without incurring a net loss in the food operation. NSBA is supporting additional flexibility provisions when the bill is considered by the Appropriations Committee next week.
“Students need healthy meals and adequate nutrition to achieve their potential in school, and school board members are committed to ensuring all students are prepared to learn,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “However, school boards cannot ignore the higher costs and operational issues created by the rigid mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.”
In a May 19 letter to the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, NSBA urges revisions to federal requirements for school meals and competitive foods, including:
- Retaining the current requirement that 50 percent of grains offered for lunch and breakfast be whole grain rich rather than further increasing the requirement to 100 percent;
- Retaining the July 1, 2014, Target 1 sodium levels, and suspend implementation of further reductions of sodium levels unless and until scientific research supports such reductions for children;
- Eliminating the requirement that students must take a fruit or vegetable as part of a reimbursable breakfast and/or lunch, in order to reduce plate waste and program costs;
- Allowing any food item permitted to be served as part of a reimbursable meal to be sold at any time as a competitive food, in order to eliminate unnecessarily complex and duplicative standards for food items sold in schools.
NSBA also is supporting the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act, HR 3663, sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. The legislation would provide options for school districts struggling to comply with some of the more problematic mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.