by Marion Nestle
Aug 27 2013

Texas takes on new USDA school food standards. Sigh.

Thanks to Bettina Siegel of The Lunch Tray for alerting me to Texas’s latest declaration of independence from Washington, DC.

The governor signed a bill this summer that was supposed to allow Texas high school students to buy “competitive” (because they compete with federally funded school meals) fast foods.  But a mistake in the wording allows them to buy “foods of minimal nutritional value”—candy, sodas, and the like in conflict with long-standing USDA regulations.

So while the Texas legislature was trying to allow high schools to sell fast food entrees at lunch, its sloppy drafting has inadvertently limited high schools to selling only a few foods – basically soda and candy – identified by the federal government over forty years ago as the least healthy for our children.

Way to go, Texas!

Based on the bill analysis, the Texas legislators behind HB1781 seemed to care only about bucking state nutrition policy, but they have also put the state in direct conflict with the new federal competitive food rules.  When those rules go into effect in the 2014-15 school year, sales of FMNV will certainly be barred, as will almost all of the competitive food currently sold in high school “food courts.”  And while the new federal rules do make an exception for occasional junk food fundraisers, such as a bake sale, HB1781 has no such limitation, allowing high school junk food fundraisers every day of the school year.

USDA’s school food standards are a great improvement over what they’ve been in the past and they deserve much support.

They do not need Congress (“pizza is a vegetable”) or state micromanagement.  Let’s hope this clearly unhealthy Texas law gets stopped in its tracks, and the sooner the better.

  • Casey

    Texas is making Kentucky look good. I see it wasn’t one of the states with data for CDC’s latest childhood obesity map.

  • Robert Kamau

    Thats a clever way to finally get junk into a school. Nice article on USDA and schools regulations on buying foodstuffs.

    For lactose intolerant folks, heres how you can make milk or water kefir at home.

  • Cara

    There’s just one “policy fix” for Texas schools here that I can see. Reject federal school lunch funds and follow the Texas rules or accept federal funds and follow federal guidelines when they become effective. This school year is a gap during which Texas kids might be avalanched with junk food. That’s what needs to be fixed ASAP.