Does the Healthy Schools Meal Act reflect a “nanny state” mentality, or is the policy vital to the health of the nation’s school children? Those are two of the questions being asked as a battle emerges over the nation’s school lunch program.
Unlikely alliances have formed, as thousands of “lunch ladies” have joined Republicans in calling for a roll back of the legislation. The Obama administration has formed its own alliance, which includes “celebrity” chefs and an influential organization representing retired military leaders. The law expires on September 30th, and its renewal will be a challenge.
Passed in 2010, the legislation requires school lunches to include more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. Schools have had to cut the salt and sugar in foods sold on campus; the legislation also covers campus vending machines.
“We should not have what is served for lunch at schools decided by bureaucrats in Washington,” said Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), who wrote one of multiple bills that would ease the rules. “This has become a burden.”
All may not be as it seems. Some proponents of the legislation question whether concerns are real…or whether opponents of the program are being encouraged by the School Nutrition Association, which receives some funding from food industry interests.
“We believe they are being highly nudged by the interests that represent the frozen-pizza industry and some of the other processed-food folks that provide significant funding,” said Kevin Concannon, undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at the Department of Agriculture. “Regressive parts of the industry want to act like we are not in the middle of a crisis in this country.”