The fight to keep improved nutrition standards in school meals isn’t over yet, but action by the Senate Appropriations Committee on May 22 struck the right note of compromise.
Senate lawmakers putting together the appropriations bill for fiscal 2015 kept the requirement that schools must serve a half a cup of fruits and vegetables each day for reimbursable school meals, while at the same time relaxing the transition to new rules on sodium and the use of whole-grain products.
Senate lawmakers also asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a master plan to show how they will provide technical assistance to schools implementing the nutrition standards, which took effect in 2012.
Earlier in the week, the House of Representatives subcommittee on agricultural appropriations created a way for schools to opt out of revised school nutrition standards.
That approach is unacceptable.
Just because the transition to healthier school menus can be rough for some school districts, it doesn’t make sense to allow schools to so easily abandon the goal of following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in our country’s subsidized school meals.
Fresh produce advocates, notably the United Fresh Produce Association, have insisted the nutrition gains made so recently not be lost without a fight.
United Fresh has pledged to help school foodservice professionals learn how to buy, handle and serve produce to U.S. students. Schools need help, but the answer isn’t found in going back in time.
Congress should keep the updated standards for produce served in school meals firmly in place.
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