Arkansas House Members Introduce Sensible School Lunch Act
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressmen Rick Crawford (AR-1), Tim Griffin (AR-2), Steve Womack (AR-3) and Tom Cotton (AR-4) introduced the Sensible School Lunch Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation will provide school districts with greater flexibility in implementing new rules for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The House bill is a companion to bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Mark Pryor (D-AR). The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has already endorsed the Senate bill.
“USDA’s new school nutrition regulations are not working and are leaving students hungry. In October, I hosted a Nutrition Summit in my district where I listened to school administrators, parents, nutritionists and teachers tell me how the nutrition guidelines are affecting their students,” said Crawford. “The Sensible School Lunch Act addresses the concerns I heard late last year and gives individual school districts the flexibility they need to feed their students. I am proud to be joined by Congressmen Griffin, Womack and Cotton in co-sponsoring this common sense legislation.”
“Washington’s latest top-down, factory-like approach to school nutrition is a disservice to students and an affront to parents. Our legislation is a bottom-up, natural approach that allows parents and school administrators to decide what food options are right for their students,” said Griffin.
“From state to state, from county to county, and even from school district to school district, no school, nor its students, is the same,” said Womack. “The Sensible School Lunch Act grants those who know their students best the flexibility needed to give them the most nutritious meals possible instead of having to comply with the USDA's one-size-fits-all policy.”
“As we’ve seen time and time again, a national one-size-fits-all strategy is not the answer when it comes to our school children—and their nutrition is no different,” said Cotton. “This legislation empowers local officials to interpret national school lunch and breakfast nutrition guidelines according to their students’ needs. I look forward to working with Congressmen Crawford, Griffin, and Womack as this legislation advances in the House.”
In late 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its final rule for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, requiring new standards for school meals. The final rule strictly limits calories, protein and grains for all students. Complying with the rule exceeded federal funding by a projected $75 million a year, according to the USDA, placing greater strain on school budgets.
The new regulations produced a flood of concern by parents, students, teachers, coaches and administrators. Major concerns were the expense of the program and the lack of flexibility for those students who have nutritional needs that exceed the strict calorie, protein and grains restrictions.
The USDA categorizes students into broad grade brackets for the purpose of nutritional needs, but according to their own rule, a 13-year-old eighth grader may eat no more protein than a five-year-old kindergartener, and a 13 year old may eat only one more ounce of grain than a kindergartner. Similarly, an active 18 year-old high school senior playing football would get no more proteins or grains than a less active 14-year-old ninth grader.
The Sensible School Lunch Act would allow more flexible portions of proteins and grains in the federal school meals program, while leaving in place the rest of the regulation, including the total calorie cap and its emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and non-fat dairy selections. At the same time, the total calorie cap remains in place to ensure healthy meals in proportion, and allowable fruits are increased as compared to before, and vegetable servings are unlimited.