WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2014 – Updated school lunch standards were meant to curb childhood obesity, but the School Nutrition Association (SNA) says it’s really the costs that will be bloating under the new guidelines.

SNA says the costs of meeting new federal nutrition standards for school meals will triple in FY 2015, which begins today. The group called on Congress to take action to prevent schools from having to eat the added costs – an estimated $1.22 billion in new food, labor and administration fees.

In a news release, the group said school districts are already experiencing the financial strain of increased costs coupled with a decrease in student lunch participation in 49 states. The organization cites USDA data showing that since schools began making required menu adjustments, more than 1 million fewer students choose school lunch each day. Since school lunch programs are not allowed to carry losses over from year to year, school districts must cover the losses.

"USDA or Congress must act to provide greater flexibility under the rules before school meal programs become a financial liability for the school districts they serve," SNA CEO Patricia Montague said in the release.

SNA is asking lawmakers to support the House FY 2015 Appropriations Bill that would allow school meal programs operating at a net loss for six months or more to seek a one-year waiver from the nutrition requirements. The group’s priorities also include being able to maintain 2012 requirements that say half of all grains be whole grain rich, rather than 100 percent under the new guidelines, keeping Target 1 sodium levels until scientific research supports further escalations in sodium reduction, and offering – but not requiring – a fruit and vegetable, in an effort to curb food waste.

The new guidelines were brought forward, in part, by first lady Michelle Obama and passed by Congress in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  Mrs. Obama addressed the regulations on Friday on “Channel One,” a news and current affairs programming outlet played in classrooms across the country. She said “change is hard” and pointed to the addictive nature of highly processed foods.

“I don’t want to settle because it’s hard,” Obama told Channel One. “I don’t want to give up because it’s expensive. I don’t want that to be the excuse.”


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