The early comments on the Trump administration’s plan to simplify school food rules are rolling in, and folks are testy.
The proposed rule, which has been portrayed as Trump’s bid to roll back Michelle Obama’s reforms to school food rules, has a comment period that ends March 23.
“This rulemaking proposes changes to simplify meal pattern and monitoring requirements in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The proposed changes, including optional flexibilities, are customer-focused and intended to help state and local Program operators overcome operational challenges that limit their ability to manage these Programs efficiently.
In the National School Lunch Program, the proposed rule would add flexibility to the existing vegetable subgroups requirement.
In the School Breakfast Program, the proposed rule would make it easier for menu planners to offer meats/meat alternates and grains interchangeably (without offering a minimum grains requirement daily), and would allow schools to offer 1/2 cup of fruit in breakfasts served outside the cafeteria to reduce food waste.
Other proposed changes would make it easier for local Program operators to plan menus for different age/grade groups, and expand the entrée exemption service timeframe for competitive foods.
To improve efficiency in program monitoring, the proposed rule also would ease several administrative review requirements, including the review cycle. The monitoring changes aim to decrease the burden associated with administrative reviews while rewarding program integrity initiatives at the State and local levels. This rule also proposes to make updates, clarifications, and technical corrections throughout other parts of its regulations. Implementation of the wide range of proposed changes and flexibilities is expected to simplify operational requirements, increase efficiency, and make it easier for State and local Program operators to feed children."
Fruits and vegetables are front and center in the comments about the proposed rules. Let’s look at a few:.
- "As an elementary school principal, I am in favor of keeping the rules as they are. I disagree that there is an increase of food waste as a result of increasing quantities of healthy fruits and vegetables and a focus on decreasing sodium overall. While increasing food competition (which really means more pizza and less balanced meals) would likely mean a decrease in food waste, this would certainly not mean an increase in healthy eating and exposure to varied food opportunities for children."
- "The proposed changes to National School Lunch and Breakfast programs are completely WRONG! If anything they should have MORE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. This is a deliberate move to undo the EXCELLENT work of Michelle Obama to ensure that our children receive healthy and balanced meals. Adding pizza, burgers and sweets would only increase the existing obesity crisis in our country. These changes are shameful and I urge you NOT TO MODIFY the programs."
- “The current 2010 healthier standards have not caused an increase in food waste according to USDAs research. The healthier 2010 standards did in fact improve healthy eating. Rollback of the 2010 standards will lead to less healthy diets, an increase in consumption of starchy foods, and more obesity.”
- "What are you thinking? Our nation is already home to one of the most obese populations in the world. The children who receive free and reduced price lunches are most susceptible to childhood obesity caused by poor nutrition and a government agency wants to exacerbate that problem by offering those who can least afford to eat it the most toxic forms of food available? Shame on you for even suggesting such a thing."
- " I do not think it is a good idea to become more lenient with the already horrible school food programs. If anything, we should be promoting more nutritionally strict diets and get soda companies out of our schools. Kids need 7 servings of vegetables and fruit A DAY. They need healthy, sustainable, nutrient dense food to excel. All of these this has been proven by science. The fried foods and the empty carbs to nothing but inflate the gut and cause drowsiness. We need nutrient dense fruit, vegetable, and sustainably raised meat for our school lunches. Our kids deserve better."
- "The Dept. of Agriculture is proposing rules that would allow schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfasts while giving them license to sell more pizza, burgers and fries to students. This is NOT the way to give children a healthy start to life. It does not address the problem of child obesity. It does not teach children the importance of nutrition.
- The proposed rules would allow schools to cut the amount of fruit included in breakfasts served outside of the cafeteria from one cup to a half cup. The remaining calories could be filled with sweet pastries and granola bars. For lunches, the proposal would allow schools to offer potatoes as a vegetable every day, and give them the flexibility to provide pizza and burgers over more nutritious choices. These changes would affect nutritional programs that feed nearly 30 million students at 99,000 schools. I URGE YOU TO KEEP THE CURRENT RULES for the good of the US economy and the health and well being of future generations.
- I oppose with the “More pizza, less vegetables” idea. It sacrifices student health just to make money. In this case only potato farmers will benefit. It also harms the student health and growth. Students will eat more fat calories food and will end up obese or with diabetes. Finally, science shows that students need more fruits and vegetables so they can be healthier and happier. For example it is recommended to eat at least three fruits and four vegetables each day so you could be healthy. I hope you don’t make these changes."
If you get the idea that many folks are incense with the proposal, you are correct. But several school district officials think the proposal has more good than bad:
From the Lakeside Union School District in California, on breakfast rules:
- “Our district has taken advantage of the temporary flexibility and we have had great success serving roasted potato products and salsa. Vegetables such as legumes and leafy greens are not part of a breakfast that students recognize or desire and should not have to be required in order to serve popular choices.”
On the rule’s flexibility in the school breakfast fruit component:
- “A few years ago, the fruit requirement at breakfast was unaccountably doubled. I have questioned this many times and never received a satisfactory response. What happens in many Breakfast in the Classroom programs is that some kind of shelf-stable fruit (raisins, applesauce cups, etc.) is sent to the classroom and not even served to children. It is made available ‘upon request” just to be in compliance. It is time to stop this silly game and concentrate efforts and funds on providing one good fruit serving for the children. Not one of them is going to eat two apples.”
Another school foodservice source said:
- "Thank you for taking the time to make changes. Although the guidelines Michelle Obama put in place were a great idea, it truly has been a struggle. I love having all of the fruits and vegetables available for students, however, the waste is still tremendous. Just because they are required to take it, doesn’t mean they are required to eat it. A lot of our students do not eat the full portion, and some don’t eat any of what they take. The whole grain requirements have not been much of a problem since manufacturers have been able to develop products that are more palatable, but allowing non whole grain foods periodically will be a nice option. One of the problems that we have faced has been the lack of flavor due to the decrease in sodium. I feel this has drastically impacted participation and not necessary to have the sodium so strict. Allowing a variety of ala carte items is also appreciated. Students should be allowed choices since that is how the world operates. Another of our big challenges is the calorie limits on the middle school grade level. It would be wonderful if we were allowed 50-100 more calories for this age group. The restrictions on this group of students is very hindering in menu planning. With the Summer meal flexibility and allowing children to take non-perishable foods out of the park is amazing!"
One more school foodservice director:
- "Being a foodservice director in a school, I welcome the simplification on our excessive rules we have to follow. I feel the vegetable sub-group documentation can be eliminated. We have always used every vegetable and fruit available and send a mixture every week. I do not need to document this, it is a waste of my time. The requirement for mandatory fruit/veggie should be eliminated. It has only let to waste. instead lets spend the effort on encouraging kids to eat a balanced diet not force feeding them. The smart snack rule should be eliminated at the H.S level or the least it should be more flexible. There are also not enough food choices that are whole grain, and the rules have caused the food choices to be redundant and boring. School foodservice should not be this complicated, I need to spend more time out in kitchen and service area, not in my office."
TK: It will be interesting to watch industry groups comment on this proposal, as it apparently would mean gains for potatoes and lost ground for other commodities. Reader, what do you think on this Trump proposal?