Hoeven-Pryor Bill Undermines Original Law’s Goal
WASHINGTON—School nutrition experts with the Physicians Committee are available for comment on the new proposed waiver that allows school districts to continue serving unhealthful refined grains and proteins while they adjust to new, more healthful National School Lunch Program standards.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final version of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which requires new standards for school meals, with the goal of fighting rampant childhood obesity and ensuring that children have access to nutritious meals. The new rules increase servings of vegetables—and decrease servings of meat and refined grains. United States Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and John Hoeven of North Dakota just introduced a bill to permanently extend the adjustment period for implementing the new rules, allowing school districts to put off implementation indefinitely.
“Flexibility within the National School Lunch Program can be a good thing,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., director of nutrition education with the Physicians Committee. “But that flexibility should favor healthful options, not allowances for fatty meats and other nutrient-poor foods. Including high-fiber, low-fat, zero-cholesterol protein options, such as beans and tofu, is an endorsement for health, not just calories.”
The Physicians Committee’s dietitians and other experts work directly with school food service personnel to provide healthful options and implement other menu changes within existing budgetary constraints. The organization also played a crucial role in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, educating government officials on nutrition research through Hill briefings and speaking at USDA listening sessions.
“The goal of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was to wean kids off of the unhealthy foods that directly contribute to our epidemics of childhood obesity and prediabetes,” says Elizabeth Kucinich, the Physicians Committee’s director of government affairs. “The Hoeven-Pryor bill seems to undermine that goal. A permanent extension of the ‘adjustment period’ would constitute another government favor to the producers of the foods that are destroying America’s health and making children prone to obesity and diabetes.”
PCRM Experts Available for Comment:
- Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., is the Physicians Committee’s director of nutrition education. She works directly with school districts to create new menus, providing everything from recipes and nutrient analysis to food vendor connections, and is available to help school districts implement the new rules outlined in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
- Elizabeth Kucinich, director of government affairs at the Physicians Committee, educates U.S. senators and representatives and other congressional staff on school meal programs and proposed legislation and has worked directly with members of Congress to introduce school meal legislation.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.