Congressional (mis)action on child nutrition
First the good news
The USDA is applying its school-food rules to child and adult care programs. It has just released its final rule for these programs. These go into effect in October 2017.
Previously, the USDA released standards for the Women, Infants and Children program and for the National School Lunch Program.
Now all three food assistance programs are more or less aligned with the Dietary Guidelines.
The child and adult feeding programs will specify more fruits and vegetables, less sugar and fat, but have reduce the standards for whole grain-rich products and sodium. Presumably, this will make the rules more acceptable to people who don’t like them, of which there are many (see below).
And now the bad news
The House has released its child nutrition reauthorization bill, with the Orwellian title: “Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act.” Like all such titles, this one means the opposite of what it says.
The House bill increases reimbursements for school breakfasts (good), but then lowers the nutrition standards for school meals and makes it harder for schools to qualify for universal free meals. Here’s the committee’s bill summary. And here is what the House Education and Workforce Committee says in its fact sheet.
- Freeze sodium reduction for at least three years.
- Require yet another scientific review of sodium.
- Weaken the whole grain standards.
- Let junk food back into schools
- Allow schools to replace fresh produce with dried (without a sugar limit), canned (without a sodium or sugar limit), and frozen fruits and vegetables, thereby allowing schools to replace fresh apples and carrots with sugary fruit snacks, potato chips, jam, or trail mix containing candy.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says this bill will increase food insecurity among children.
Fortunately, not everyone in the House loves this bill. A letter signed by 111 House members details objections.
The House will be working on this bill tomorrow. What will the Senate do?
School food advocates: it’s time to get busy. Here’s the list of House members. Write to yours today!