Today at a hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee to discuss the reauthorization of child nutrition programs, U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) addressed the need for flexible child nutrition standards.
Following the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, school districts throughout South Dakota and around the country began sharing the implementation challenges resulting from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) overly restrictive interpretation of the law regarding the caloric intake of grains, starches, and proteins. Schools expressed concerns that USDA’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to school lunches left students hungry and school districts frustrated with the additional expense, paperwork, and nutritional research necessary to meet excessive federal requirements.
“I have heard from school administrators in my state of South Dakota who tell me that the higher cost of food needed to meet the USDA standards has resulted in financial loss and even the release of school employees just so that school can meet its financial obligations,” said Thune. “There is no federal law, regulation, or policy that should be considered a gold standard.”
Video of the senator’s questions is available here.
At the hearing, Thune also discussed a request he received about including Native American cultural food preferences in the school lunch program. Thune is currently working with the USDA to ensure traditional foods are available in the school lunch program under existing USDA regulations.