Davis, Ashford Introduce Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act
Washington, DC – U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) and Brad Ashford (D-Neb.) today announced the introduction of the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act to provide permanent relief to schools struggling to comply with the USDA’s whole grain and sodium requirements under the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs.
“The National School Lunch Program was put in place to ensure no child would go hungry throughout the school day but unrealistic dietary mandates by the USDA are making this more and more difficult,” said Davis. “Schools are seeing an increase in plate waste and dissatisfaction with school lunches, which is impacting our low income students the most. The Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act provides our schools with permanent relief from some of the most stringent USDA requirements so they can offer healthy lunches that students will actually eat.”
“Everyone agrees that better-quality food, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will make our children healthier thereby helping to increase a child’s school performance,” said Ashford. “However, some of these new guidelines are unrealistic and schools are struggling to implement these burdensome new regulations while attempting to meet budgetary requirements. Schools need the flexibility to meet local needs while balancing the need to provide healthy, nutritious lunches.”
"School Nutrition Association members strongly support the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act," said School Nutrition Association CEO Patricia Montague, CAE. "Although new nutrition standards for school meals have brought many positive changes, some of the new rules have caused unintended negative consequences. Too many students are passing up nutritious school lunches in favor of unhealthy alternatives. Schools miss out on the opportunity to teach students about healthy choices in the cafeteria, while losing critical revenue to invest in appealing school menus. The Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act will help schools maintain strong meal programs and better serve students."
Specifically, the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act makes the following changes to whole grain and sodium requirements under the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs:
Whole Grains: Since 2012, at least half of all grains offered with school meals have been whole-grain rich. This bill restores the whole grain requirement back to 50 percent, instead of the 100 percent requirement that was mandated by the USDA in July 2014.
Sodium: This bill prevents the USDA from mandating additional sodium reduction requirements below the Target 1 level, which went into effect in July 2014. If additional sodium reductions are required, schools would have a difficult time meeting the standards and be prevented from serving healthy food with naturally occurring sodium, including milk, cheese, and meat.
A Senate version of the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act was introduced by Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Angus King (I-Maine) last month.
Background: In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKS), reauthorizing the federal child nutrition programs, which established several nutritional standards for School Lunch and Breakfast programs including whole grain standards and sodium restrictions.
Last Congress, Davis held a School Nutrition Summit with school nutrition professionals and school administrators throughout his district to hear their concerns and led a bipartisan letter to the USDA asking for flexibility.