The School Nutrition Association, the nation’s largest organization of school food professionals, has just released its 2015 position paper. The release comes in advance of the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which presents a prime opportunity for the organization to push through its legislative agenda in Congress to weaken the nutritional standards for school meals.
For those following the school lunch battle last year, few aspects of the SNA’s position paper will come as a surprise. The organization seeks to:
- Halt further reductions in sodium in school meals;
- Halt a mandated increase in whole grain levels, meaning that only half, rather than all, grain foods served in schools be whole-grain rich (51% or more whole grain);
- Change the offer versus serve rules to allow individual school districts to decide whether children must take a 1/2 cup serving of fruits and vegetables with each meal, or instead let children routinely pass up those healthful foods (creating an “all beige” tray like the one shown at right); and
- Change the rules regarding “a la carte” items to allow districts to serve foods from the reimbursable lunch menu on their a la carte line at any time. This would mean that items like pizza and fries could be sold to kids daily, without the other meal components (such as milk and fruit) that contribute to a nutritionally balanced lunch.
Three other positions articulated in the SNA paper are:
- Increasing the per meal reimbursement for school breakfast and lunch by 35 cents, which I wholeheartedly endorse, as school meals have been chronically underfunded;
- Providing “program simplification,” i.e., asking Congress to “simplify child nutrition programs and ease administrative burdens” on districts. It remains to be seen what exactly such “simplification” would look like and to what degree, if any, it would affect the nutritional quality of meals; and
- Create a “Paid Meal Equity” exemption allowing financially solvent school meal programs to be exempt from a provision requiring them to raise paid meal prices until they cover the actual cost of school meals.
The SNA will be holding a Legislative Action Conference on March 1-4, 2015 to push through this agenda in Congress. According to SNA’s press release, approximately a thousand school nutrition professionals “will descend on Capitol Hill . . . to meet with their representatives to discuss school nutrition issues.”
As I discussed in my piece for the New York Times Motherlode last October (“As Lobbyists and Politicians Shout it Out Over School Lunch, Can Parents Be Heard?“), it will be a serious challenge for ordinary parents who care about school nutrition to counteract this Big-Food-funded lobbying onslaught. But that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel, by any means.
More to come. Stay tuned.
Do You Love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Then “like” The Lunch Tray! Join almost 9,500 TLT fans by liking TLT’s Facebook page, join 5,500 TLT followers on Twitter, or get your “Lunch” delivered right to your email inbox by subscribing here. And be sure to check out my free video for kids about processed food, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory!”