Schools Have Plenty of Complaints About New Healthy Lunch Rules

Schools Have Plenty of Complaints About New Healthy Lunch Rules

Some public school officials are requesting that Congress and the Department of Agriculture roll back healthy lunch requirements, arguing that students won't be able to adjust to meals that aren't rich in sodium or low on fruits and vegetables. 

The Associated Press reports that school administrators say students have been able to adjust to some changes pretty easily, like eating whole-grain breads, but that they've been rejecting others, like eating whole-grain anything else. Per the AP

Some schools are having problems with whole grain-rich pastas, which can cook differently... Whole grains have also proved a hard sell for some popular regional items, like biscuits and grits in the South. Lyman Graham of the Roswell, New Mexico, school district says tortillas are one of the most popular foods in his area, but the whole wheat flour versions are "going in the trash."

Some schools are also complaining that the mandate to cap sodium at 640 milligrams per elementary school lunch and 740 milligrams per high school lunch by 2017 is unrealistic. As is requiring kids to eat a fruit or vegetable with every single meal, they say.

Not all healthy eating initiatives are being destroyed by young palates, however. Some schools are making the (obvious, inevitable) point that good food is just more expensive. Again, the AP

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Schools will for the first time this year have to make sure that all foods, including vending machines and a la carte lines, meet healthier standards. While many schools have already moved to make snacks healthier, others depend on snack money to help operate their lunchrooms and are worried about a sales dip.

And Pew reported in December of last year that healthier ingredients are not the only new expense schools face in adjusting to the healthy lunch program: 

The vast majority of school food authorities (88 percent) needed one or more pieces of equipment to help them meet the current lunch standards. Of those that reported having inadequate equipment, more than 85  percent are “making do” with a less-efficient process or workaround. Only 42 percent of school food authorities reported having a budget to purchase capital equipment, and less than half expected the budget to be adequate to meet their equipment needs. More than half of all school food authorities (55 percent) need kitchen infrastructure changes at one or more schools to meet the lunch requirements. 

The changes to school lunches are a result of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids of Act of 2010, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, as a way to fight the rising obesity epidemic and make sure American kids get at least one nutritious meal each day. The initiative was already scaled back once, in 2012, when the USDA cancelled a maximum requirement on proteins and grains after kids complained they were too hungry. 

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