USDA backpedals on healthy school-lunch rules
Whiny kids and Republicans have a lot in common. For example, they both complained enough to weaken still-relatively new USDA rules requiring school lunches to be more healthy. Some kids said they were still hungry after eating the new lunches, and Republican legislators (who often act like they’re cranky due to low blood sugar) said the government was meddling too much in local affairs, so now the USDA is lifting the cap on the amount of meats and grains permitted in school meals.
In a letter to Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), USDA head Tom Vilsack said the meat and grain limits had been “the top operational challenge” for states and schools in implementing the new standards, in part because they had a hard time locating the “right-sized” meats, and apparently cutting the meats into the right sizes is just too much work.
Several lawmakers wrote the department after the new rules went into effect in September saying kids aren’t getting enough to eat.
School administrators also complained, saying set maximums on grains and meats are too limiting as they try to plan daily meals.
“This flexibility is being provided to allow more time for the development of products that fit within the new standards while granting schools additional weekly menu planning options to help ensure that children receive a wholesome, nutritious meal every day of the week,” Vilsack said in a letter to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.
Vilsack wasn’t all about appeasement, though. His letter to Hoeven included this slightly snarky bit:
It is important to point out that the new school meals are designed to meet only a portion of a child’s nutritional needs over the course of the school day. This should come as no surprise — students never have and never will get all of their daily dietary needs from a single meal. School breakfasts and lunches are designed to meet roughly one-fourth and one-third, respectively, of the daily calorie needs of school children.
Despite the rule change, calorie caps for meals will remain the same. This should come as no surprise — the way math works means meals with more meat and grains will have to have less of something else. Let’s hope that something else is chocolate milk, not fruits and veggies.
Susie Cagle writes and draws news for Grist. She also writes and draws tweets for
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