Child Nutrition Developments: Regulatory Relief and Congressional Action

On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue released a proclamation directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to begin taking specific steps to assist school districts with meeting food content requirements associated with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.  The Secretary announced that USDA will begin the process of amending regulations to provide schools with additional options regarding the serving of whole grains. The proclamation states that while the Department continues to formally create more flexibility in existing regulations, the USDA will continue to provide states the authority to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in obtaining whole grain-rich products acceptable to students, for any type of grains on the menu for school year 2017–18. In addition to providing flexibility for whole grain products, the Secretary granted additional exemptions:

Schools that met the sodium Target I for school years 2017-2020 will be considered compliant with USDA sodium requirements.

USDA will begin the regulatory process to provide discretion to schools to continue serving 1% fat milk.

NSBA will continue to monitor USDA actions to provide more flexibility to school districts in meeting food content requirements. Additional information on the whole grain, milk, and sodium food content flexibility provided by USDA is included in the Secretary’s press release.

Additionally, this week, Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) filed a bill to amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 to provide more flexibility to school districts in meeting requirements most recently imposed by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Rep. Noem’s bill, the Permanent Flexibility for School Meals Act, amends current law to make nutritional requirements and standards optional for school districts. For example, existing “nutritional requirements” would no longer be mandatory. Instead, the bill reclassifies nutrition requirements as “nutritional guidelines,” and they are made permissive. NSBA supports the legislation.

NSBA will continue to coordinate with members of Congress and Secretary Perdue to ensure local school board members are given more flexibility regarding the administration of child nutrition programs.

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