Farm bill debate could include school nutrition flexibility

The new Farm Bill could include an amendment giving school districts more flexibility in meeting child nutrition guidelines and would add local school boards to the list of organizations the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must consult when working to finalize new child nutrition regulations. The House Rules Committee will meet May 16 to consider pending Farm Bill amendments. 

The Agriculture and Nutrition Act (H.R. 2) is designed to update the nation’s federal farm program and critical nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch Program, National School Breakfast Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps). “Farm Bills” are generally enacted roughly every five years. 

Current school nutrition standards were attacked almost as soon as they were finalized in the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Students, parents, school boards and food service professionals said many guidelines for calorie counts, portion sizes, whole grain requirements, acceptable varieties of milk and sodium, sugar and fat counts were too stringent and didn’t reflect local needs or practices. 

An amendment by Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), a former school board member, not only includes local board members in school nutrition decisions but also requires the USDA to review the two main regulations that were issued under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and finalize new regulations that are based on relevant research findings of school-age children, would not mandate additional costs to school districts; and, would maintain healthy meals.  

KASB supports reauthorization of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in a way that increases flexibility for local districts in providing healthy meals to children and families. 

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