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Congress Examines Consequences of School Lunch Requirements
posted by: Cindy Omlin | July 10, 2013, 02:23 PM   

In 2010 Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to provide nutritional regulations for school lunches. Late in June, Congress held a committee hearing examining the consequences of these new regulations.

The panelists included Kay Brown, director for education, workforce, and income security issues, Government Accountability Office (GAO), Megan Schaper, director of food and nutrition services in the State College Area School District, Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Sandra Ford, director of food and nutrition services in the Manatee County School District in Florida. The experts provided perspective for the panel on how increased regulations have affected states, districts, and communities.

Today, the federal government dictates type, amount, and even color of food in public schools. These stringent laws are causing budget constraints and waste of food, according to some experts. While some students throw away fresh food immediately, other students, especially athletes, complain of hunger. Furthermore, student-lead protests and altogether boycotting of schools lunches serves to reduce school incomes. Despite this resistance, Americans believe schools should work to combat childhood obesity. According to a  recent Kaiser Permanente Study, 90% of respondents say schools should help in fighting obesity.

GAO’s Ms. Brown reported several challenges. In particular, new modifications led to elimination of several popular foods, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and resulted in a general negative reaction. While students will likely receive a more nutritious lunch, Brown asserted that the implementation process still needs to be resolved.

Ms. Schaper concurred, stating that while her school had been in close compliance with the guidelines, the federal guidelines were still met with much resistance, including a 5.6% decrease in consumption. She encouraged congressional leaders to remove caps on school lunches, asserting that the standards actually made children eat less nutritiously, because they simply did not partake in the lunch fare.

Ms. Ford stated that while ensuring every student has access to a well-balanced meals is her main goal, the guidelines took many options off the menu. She cited as specific instance of a child bursting into tears when no longer had the option of a sandwich. Like Schaper, Ford reported a decrease in school lunch participation of 3%.

Similarly, Ms. Wootan, encouraged the panel to consider the tens of thousands of schools that have already made great progress. “Changes take time,” agreed Wootan. “Not surprisingly schools are experiencing challenges. However technical assistance and resources are available and USDA is listening and providing flexibility.”

While school lunch regulations have been controversial, there have been conflicting reports about their effectiveness in combating childhood obesity. Based on the testimony, officials are clearly looking for flexibility and what works for the students of their states and districts.

Click here to watch the entire hearing.

What do you think of the school lunch guidelines? Has your state or district seen resistance to the regulations?
Comment below.

Originally posted by Ruthie at AAE.

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