Republicans in Congress Fight to Keep White Bread and Extra Salt in School Lunches

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
(photo: Toby Tabot, AP)

First Lady Michelle Obama’s signature policy achievement—improving the menus of school lunches—is coming under attack from Republicans who want to use complaints from school officials to derail the program.


In effect since 2012, the new nutrition standards (pdf) for school lunches required schools to serve more fruits and vegetables and healthier grains and limit the amount of sugar, salt and fat in foods served to students.


But some school districts have said the changes have proven costly to their budgets, leading GOP lawmakers to push for suspending the new rules for up to a year.


Under legislation introduced in Congress, schools could receive a waiver to stop abiding by the standards for 12 months if they lost money as a result of following them for six months during the previous school year.


Earlier Republican efforts to pass such a bill were derailed when Michelle Obama “aggressively” fought against them and President Obama threatened a veto, according to the Associated Press. This time, however, the Republicans slipped the legislation into a wider $1-trillion spending bill, making it more difficult to kill.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) described the bill’s provision to “[lower] standards for school lunches for our children”  as one of the few “very destructive riders” that Democrats would not be willing to accept.


The bill, which is scheduled for a House vote on Thursday, also includes a curtailment of clean water regulations and funds earmarked for battles against Ebola in West Africa and the terrorist organization ISIS in the Middle East. More than half of the bill goes to military spending. Another government shutdown looms in the event the legislation is held up.


-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

House Republicans Continue To Push For School Lunch Reform Delay (by Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press)

G.O.P. Extracts Price for Averting Shutdown (by Jonathan Weisman and Ashley Parker, New York Times)

Grain Requirements for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program (U.S. Department of Agriculture) (pdf)


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