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The Hill reports that a US House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee has approved language in new legislation that "would require the Agriculture Department to waive requirements to serve fruits, vegetables and low-sodium and low-fat foods for schools that can show their lunch programs are losing money.

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Alabama), chairman of the subcommittee, tells The Hill, "If your schools are successfully implementing the nutrition standards and operating in the black, they would not qualify for or need a waiver. However, for schools suffering economic hardship and needing more time to implement and adjust to the new standards, this waiver gives them that flexibility schools are asking us to provide."

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responded: "The House bill would undermine the effort to provide kids with more nutritious food and would be a major step backwards for the health of American children, just at the time childhood obesity rates are finally starting to level off. USDA has continued to show flexibility in implementing these new standards, and Congress should focus on partnering with USDA, states, schools, and parents to help our kids have access to more healthy food, not less."

United Fresh President & CEO Tom Stenzel issued a statement that read, in part:

"Members of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee who voted today to roll back school meal nutrition standards that benefit the health of millions of American children should be embarrassed.  We are disappointed in the vote to move the bill out of subcommittee, but are pleased that so many members raised strong objections to this provision, and will continue to fight any rollback that jeopardizes children’s health.

"USDA reports that 91% of schools are already complying with these nutrition standards.  Congress should focus on helping those schools that may face challenges in implementing the standards, not creating an 'opt-out' clause just because some find it difficult.  This is unfair to those thousands of schools across the country who are doing a great job and providing healthier meals to their students."

Aderholt said that the move was not a response to industry concerns, but rather to all the "lunch ladies I talk to."
KC's View:
The whole "lunch ladies" line is laugh-out-loud funny … it seems just so transparently false, unless, of course, Aderholt has found that in Alabama, lunch ladies are a part of the donor class.

What a crock.

I agree with Stenzel and Vilsack. Anybody who voted for this should be embarrassed, because they've voted essentially in favor of a mindset that says ketchup is a vegetable, and that does not put a premium on how children are fed in school. I recognize that it is not a perfect system and that it is hard to get kids who eat crap at home and in between meals to appreciate healthy and diverse foods at school. But y'know … we teach them history and math and literature and science (except, of course, in certain districts) that they may not appreciate, and helping them understand food and nutrition issues ought to be part of their education.

Just another case of misplaced priorities.