School Nutrition Association Seeks Roll-Back of Healthier School Food Standards

by Bettina Elias Siegel on January 29, 2014

My colleague Dana Woldow has a new piece in Beyond Chron that’s well worth reading.  In it, she takes issue with a position paper just released by the School Nutrition Association (“SNA”), the leading organization of over 55,000 school food professionals around the country.

This is what lunch looked like in my district before kids were required to take  fruits & vegetables. Do we want to go back to this?

This is what one lunch looked like in my district before kids were required to take fruits & vegetables. Do we want to go back to this?

Woldow tells us that the SNA is seeking to roll back some of the hardest-won gains of the new school meal regulations, namely, the requirement that children actually take servings of fruits or vegetables with their meal, and the requirement that all grains in school meals meet “whole grain-rich criteria.”

The SNA is also asking USDA to extend the comment period on the new competitive food rules which, if they go into effect as planned on July 1st, will represent the first meaningful regulation of snack foods on school campuses, everything from vending machine offerings to the items offered in cafeteria “a la carte” lines.   On this latter SNA request, Woldow muses:

The USDA already received 250,000 comments during the 2013 comment period prior to finalizing the new regulations, including extensive comments from the SNA, so why do they think that even more public comment is needed?

Maybe it is because more public comment would give SNA’s patrons - some of whom are major food companies like Coca-ColaPepsicoKraft, and ConAgra - more time to lobby for weakening the regulations and allowing more junk food to continue to be sold to children at school.

Woldow recognizes that SNA makes these recommendations with an eye to the fiscal bottom line of school meal programs, and that schools need more federal funding to carry out the mandates of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  But she and I are in complete agreement that the answer to this problem is not taking a giant leap backwards from the recently improved school meal standards.

I encourage you to read Woldow’s piece, as well as the SNA position paper.  SNA is likely to respond to Woldow, and I’ll share that response here as well.

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