Passed agriculture budget bill lets schools opt out of healthy meals program

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – House Republicans did not heed First Lady Michelle Obama’s call not to grant waivers to the school lunch program’s nutrition guidelines by passing Thursday the agriculture spending bill that also allows schools to opt out of the rules.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 31-18 to pass the bill, whose provision of nearly $21 billion for child nutrition gives schools 12 months to comply with the Obama administration’s rules on fighting childhood obesity. The bill provides that the Agriculture Department establish a waiver process for local school districts that have found it too expensive to comply with the tougher nutrition standards.

School nutrition rules introduced in 2012 added more fruits and green vegetables to students’ breakfasts and lunches and reduced the amount of salt and fat children consumed at schools.

Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) sponsored an amendment that would have removed the waiver from the budget bill, but it was defeated in a 29-22 vote after nearly two hours of debate.

The School Nutrition Association supports the bill as the cost of the nutrition rules led to a decrease in the number of schools taking part in the federal meals programs and caused wastage of tons of foods because schoolchildren did not like eating healthier meals.

The First Lady has been campaigning against childhood obesity and even wrote an op-ed article in The New York Times on Thursday criticizing Congress’ attempt to undo the administration’s childhood nutrition accomplishments.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) clarified that the waiver is only temporary and the bill’s intent is not to roll back the standards nationally.

The bill is set for floor action in the House next month.

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