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Here Comes the Chocolate Milk, Salt… and the Profits!

May 2, 2017

I read with dismay that the latest budget under review in Congress includes a rollback in the school lunch standards set by President Obama in 2012… a rollback in the name of  de-regulation. As reported by McClatchy writer Lindsay Wise:

Chocolate milk is coming back on the school lunch menu.

So are white bread and saltier food.

Several paragraphs tucked into a massive 1,665-page government spending bill released Monday would relax Obama-era nutrition standards for school lunches.

On page 101 of the bill, due for congressional votes later this week, the secretary of agriculture is directed to allow states to grant schools exemptions so they can serve flavored low-fat milk and bread products that are not rich in whole grains.

The bill, which keeps the federal government funded through Sept. 30, also would push back deadlines for schools to meet lower sodium levels. It would bar federal funds from paying the salaries of any government officials to implement the nutrition standards.

The problem, according to legislators, was that the regulations were creating a problem for cafeterias who couldn’t make ends meet and the fact that children weren’t eating the foods the cafeterias offered. According to the GOP legislator who oversees the lunch program as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee the government has been using the wrong standards to measure school lunch. Nutrition is less important than consumption!

Some school districts and cafeteria workers complained the rules are too costly and restrictive. Without more flexibility, they warned, they’d keep throwing away whole grains, fruits and vegetables that kids refuse to eat.

“All the way through this, the yardstick on the school lunch program was whether or not the kids were eating,” said Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

Given that guideline, I’m surprised the GOP wants to restrict the grocery items people on food stamps purchase. Shouldn’t the yardstick for that program be “whether or not the merchandise is consumed” and if that is the yardstick why shouldn’t those receiving government benefits for food be allowed to purchase snack foods and beer? The real reason behind this shift was identified in the article:

Cecilia Munoz, director of the White House domestic policy council under Obama, said that the language in the omnibus is a legislative attempt to dismantle rules that can be hard to undo once they’re in place.

This looks like something that’s being done for the sake of industry at the expense of kids. It’s much harder to revoke a rule, and it’s especially hard to revoke a rule when you’re fighting the science here. It just opens your rule-making up to litigation, because you have to prove there’s a rational basis. … It’s going to be interesting what the rationale is going to be for adding more salt to foods or moving away from whole grains to more refined grains.”

It’s clear what the rationale will be: schools should yield to the marketplace and allow profiteers to flourish at the expense of the well-being of children. That trade-off is important for children learn… more important than learning how to eat a tasty and well-balanced meal.


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