The lead sponsors of legislation to fix the new school meal nutrition standard believe USDA erred in setting limits on the amount of grains and proteins cafeterias can serve students. Senators John Hoeven of North Dakota and Mark Pryor of Arkansas hope to make a short-term waiver issued by USDA last year to allow school cafeterias more time to adjust to the limits on grains and proteins permanent. Hoeven says the legislation - S. 427 - strikes a balance between the objective of providing nutritious meals and combating childhood obesity. The measure would keep the calorie limits placed on food servings intact. The lawmakers say they got involved because of students who complained the new menus left some feeling hungry and didn’t meet the needs of student athletes.
The School Nutrition Association is supporting the measure. Association President Sandra Ford said the weekly limits tied the hands of providers who wanted to offer students choices in their meals. She noted a sandwich alternative with two slices of whole grain bread could push meals over the weekly maximum for grains - and a salad with grilled chicken and low-fat cheese exceeded weekly protein limits. In fact - at Ford’s school - meeting the standard meant offering sandwiches only four days out of five as an alternative to the hot entrée options.
At the American Heart Association - Policy Research Director Laurie Whitsel says the substance of the Senate bill isn’t worrisome. But Whitsel does believe it sets a bad precedent for Congress to get involved - and says it’s important to ensure politics aren’t influencing the implementation of legislation passed in 2010. Whitsel says implementation is best left to USDA.