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Proposed Changes to Federal Nutrition Bill Receive Widespread Support

Proposed Changes to Federal Nutrition Bill Receive Widespread Support

The Senate Agriculture Committee released Monday the 200-page reauthorization of the child nutrition bill, called the Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016. The bipartisan measure aims to, among other things, address the concerns over how to regulate the nation’s school cafeterias.

The bill tackles former controversial legislation mandating 100 percent of grains in school cafeterias to be whole-wheat, a costly mandate and also one not particularly popular with the kids.

"The bill, which heads to a markup on Wednesday, would bump whole grain-rich requirements from applying to 100 percent of grains served in schools to 80 percent, allowing schools to serve things like white rice, regular bagels and white-flour biscuits once a week if they wish,” said Politico in its article Has the last apple been thrown in the school lunch fight?

“It would delay future sodium restrictions and call for an independent study on the impact of and the science behind the reductions — a modest win for some in the food industry who worried the timeline to cut salt was too much, too fast.”

The legislation also provides loan assistance and grant programs to schools in need of upgrading their food service facilities and better training for staff, a move that The Pew Charitable Trusts is praising.

"This proposal ensures that good nutrition remains the core ingredient in school meal programs. Importantly, the committee included authorization for funding to help the professionals who lead these complex programs get the tools they need to succeed. About 9 in 10 districts nationwide report needing additional kitchen equipment to prepare healthy meals, but few can afford these investments without financial assistance,” said Jessica Donze Black, director of Pew’s school nutrition project in a statement.

The former Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that went into effect in 2010 and was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama has been deeply criticized for forcing lunches on America’s children they simply won’t eat while complicating it by tying federal funding into it.

The School Nutrition Association’s “2015 Position Paper” criticized the complex legislation, under which participating schools take federal money but must stringently limit the amount of sugar, fat and sodium in every morsel of food sold at schools. Also, in what presumably falls outside the hunger-free aspect of the act, the Obama administration has instituted unforgiving calorie caps,” said The Daily Caller

While the new legislation will significantly reduce strict federal guidelines that evoked such complaints, it won’t allow schools to completely opt out of the guidelines, a move many are also praising.

The legislation is anticipated to be voted on today.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

1/20/2016

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