The children have spoken.
The school nutrition rules pushed down the throats of public school students during the last administration are going away. The Trump administration might not be able to fund the wall along the Mexican border or end Obamacare but at least school cafeteria food can taste better.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has begun the arduous task of rolling back the bureaucratic lunchroom dictates championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Perdue announced on May 1 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture “will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs in order to make food choices both healthful and appealing to students,’’ according to a press release.
Those schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program, and as a result are reimbursed by the federal government, have calorie, fat, sodium and other limits.
For example, calories are capped for kids in K to 5 at 550-650 calories, sixth through eighth at 600-700 and 750-850 for those in high school. That’s not much for growing boys and girls and especially ones active in sports.
To this moment, hungry and disgusted kids are still tweeting pictures of their skimpy and weird looking lunches to #ThanksMichelleObama. Such as:
“Had a very healthy lunch today. The apple definitely made up for the mystery mush. #ThanksMichelleObama” – Hunter Whitney.
Gone, but not forgotten, as they say.
“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said. “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the program.”
We all want our kids to eat right. But having the federal leviathan decree that parents can’t bring cupcakes to class for their child’s birthday or that Frosted Flakes are banned from daycare centers makes no account for how most people really live. We need a lot of things. A national dietician with power to starve school systems of funding if they don’t obey is not one of them.
According to the USDA’s calculations, the restrictive food rules “cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion in Fiscal Year 2015. At the same time costs are going up, most states are reporting that they’ve seen a decrease in student participation in school lunches, as nationwide about one million students choose not to have a school lunch each day. This impacts schools in two ways: The decline in school lunch participation means reduced revenue to schools while they simultaneously are encountering increased costs,” the release said.
The only problem: Perdue isn’t going far enough, fast enough. His “proclamation” only relaxes the federal rules on whole grains and sodium in 2017-2018. Mercifully, the rules that would allow schools to serve 1 percent flavored milk could be eased sooner.
If this madness doesn’t cry out for complete local control, we don’t know what does.
Of course, some schools have dumped the National School Lunch Program all together – with not so surprising results.
For example, Penn-Trafford High School in Pennsylvania “lost about $40,000 worth of (federal) reimbursement, but our sales are up about $50,000 over last year,” district business manager Brett Lago told TribLive.com in their Feb. 17 edition. “The participation has gone from about 25 to 45 percent, and we’re still providing free lunches to all those students who would have been eligible under the school lunch program,” Lago said.
“I’ve got 14 grandchildren,” said Perdue, “and there is no way that I would propose something if I didn’t think it was good, healthful, and the right thing to do...this new flexibility will give schools and states the option of doing what we’re laying out here today. These are not mandates on schools.”
Leave it to a grandpa to make it right. But don’t stop now, Sonny – it’s time to make school lunches great again.