WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Hoeven today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has agreed to enact permanent changes to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program requirements in response to their demands.
In December 2012, USDA made temporary changes to the School Lunch Program in response to a letter led by Hoeven and Pryor and signed by other senators. Hoeven and Pryor then wrote legislation, which is likely to pass this month, to make the changes permanent. The senators’ legislation, the Sensible School Lunch Act, has broad, bipartisan support and the backing of the School Nutrition Association. In response to their legislation, the USDA will now make the changes administratively.
“After hearing from educators, parents, and students, Senator Hoeven and I stepped in to help school districts who were frustrated with the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program’s strict new rules,” Pryor said. “I’m glad the USDA followed our lead and made these much-needed administrative changes that will give our school districts the permanent flexibility they need to keep our kids healthy and successful.”
“Today, the USDA made the changes we have been seeking to the School Lunch Program,” Hoeven said. “A one-size-fits-all approach to school lunch left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet federal requirements. Our Sensible School Lunch Act would have made the changes in any case.”
Other senators who cosponsored the legislation include: Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Angus King (I-Maine), Tom Udall (Dem. N.M.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).
The USDA informed the senators today that it plans to publish a final rule in the Friday’s Federal Register on Certification of Compliance with Meal Requirements for the National School Lunch Program under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The final rule includes a provision to make permanent the grain and meat/meat-alternate flexibility that USDA has used on account of the senators’ efforts over the past year. Under the final rule, schools will be considered compliant with the new meal requirements if they meet the weekly minimums for grain and meat/meat-alternates, as well as the total calorie ranges.
The senators said their effort was prompted by numerous correspondences from parents, school board members, superintendents, and other concerned community members expressing their frustration as the new rule was rolled out. The rule became effective in March 2012 and was implemented for the 2013 school year. The senators got the agency to lift its strict limitations on caloric intake of grains and starches, as well as protein, but only for the 2012-2013 school year. The move gave significantly more flexibility to schools and students, especially athletes.
Pryor and Hoeven had said they were concerned about strict calorie limits, protein sufficiency, increased costs and lack of flexibility to adapt the program to the individual needs of some students. The senators said the rule had adopted a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition, leaving some students hungry and some school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork and nutritional research necessary to meet federal requirements.