In a previous post on June 23, 2014, Dr. Michelle Ting highlighted H.R. 4800 (Sec. 739), the U.S. House bill concerning the Agriculture Department’s 2015 FY budget. Dr. Ting explained that the bill threatens to weaken federal child nutrition programs by creating a waiver from compliance with current nutrition requirements for schools that are able to demonstrate a net loss, for at least six months, from operating a food service program. With many children receiving as much as 50% of their daily caloric intake from meals at school, school nutrition standards play a large role in reducing the rate of pediatric obesity.
The waiver is largely supported by the School Nutrition Association (SNA), a national organization representing school nutrition workers and the companies that produce foods items sold in schools. The Association claims that school districts are losing money as children choose not to purchase the healthier lunch options.
While the SNA raises several valid concerns, such as decreased participation in the lunch program and wasted fruits and vegetables, many individuals affirm that lowering nutrition standards is not the solution. Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) states: “We don’t allow kids to opt out of math or opt out of science because it’s tough. Changing the American diet is fundamental to bringing down health care costs.” First Lady Michelle Obama shared in a New York Times opinion piece: “Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches? You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.”
This bill remains pending in the U.S. House. To take action, write a letter to your U.S. House Representative. To identify your representative, visit http://www.house.gov and “Find Your Representative” by entering your zip code. Multiple congressional districts may overlap in one zip code. If this is the case, provide your address of residence to find your representative.
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Judy Lin, MD