November 16, 2011
Congress Pushing Back On Attempt To Make School Lunches Healthier
Congress is fighting back an Obama administration push to take foods like pizza and french fries out of school lunches.
The final version of a spending bill released on Monday would limit the use of potatoes on the lunch line, put new restrictions on sodium, and boost the use of whole grains.
The USDA wanted to prevent schools from being allowed to consider tomato paste on pizzas as a vegetable, which is how things currently stand.
Food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools, the salt industry and potato growers have lobbied back to fight the changes, and some conservatives say the federal government should not be telling children what to eat.
Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said in a summary of the bill that the changes would "prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations and to provide greater flexibility for local school districts to improve the nutritional quality of meals."
School districts said some of the USDA requirements went too far and cost too much when budgets are extremely tight.
House Republicans urged the USDA to completely rewrite the standards of their version of the bill passed in June.
The Senate voted last month to block the potato limits in their version. Neither version included the language on tomato paste, sodium or whole grains.
The school lunch proposal is based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vislack said they are necessary to reduce childhood obesity and future health care costs.
USDA spokeswoman Courtney Rowe said on Tuesday that the department will continue its efforts to make lunches healthier.
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