Agriculture Secretary Perdue Says His Department Will Provide Greater Flexibility In Nutrition Requirements For School Meals
USDA Press Release
Source: USDA | Released May 2, 2017
Sonny Perdue moves to ‘make school meals great again.’ Local control of whole grains, sodium, milk to make meals healthful and appealing
LEESBURG, VA, May 1, 2017 — U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs in order to make food choices both healthful and appealing to students. Perdue made the announcement during a visit to Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, VA, to mark School Nutrition Employee Week. Perdue signed a proclamation which begins the process of restoring local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium, and milk. Perdue was joined by Sen. Pat Roberts (KS), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Patricia Montague, CEO of the School Nutrition Association.
“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said. “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program.”
“I commend Secretary Perdue for taking this important step,” said Montague. “We have been wanting flexibility so that schools can serve meals that are both nutritious and palatable. We don’t want kids wasting their meals by throwing them away. Some of our schools are actually using that food waste as compost. That shouldn’t be happening.”
Schools have been facing increasing fiscal burdens as they attempt to adhere to existing, stringent nutrition requirements. According to USDA figures, school food requirements cost school districts and states an additional $1.22 billion in fiscal year 2015. At the same time costs are going up, most states are reporting that they’ve seen a decrease in student participation in school lunches, as nation-wide about one million students choose not to have a school lunch each day. This impacts schools in two ways: The decline in school lunch participation means reduced revenue to schools while they simultaneously are encountering increased costs.
“I was talking to some folks in Washington about this, and they said that the current program is working. ‘How do you know?’ I asked. They said it’s because 99 percent of schools are at least partially compliant. Well, only in Washington can that be considered proof that the system is working as it was intended,” Perdue said. “A perfect example is in the south, where the schools want to serve grits. But the whole grain variety has little black flakes in it, and the kids won’t eat it. The school is compliant with the whole grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits. That doesn’t make any sense.”
The specific flexibilities are:
“I’ve got 14 grandchildren, and there is no way that I would propose something if I didn’t think it was good, healthful, and the right thing to do,” Perdue said. “And here’s the thing about local control: it means that this new flexibility will give schools and states the option of doing what we’re laying out here today. These are not mandates on schools.”
Perdue lauded the efforts of the nation’s food service staff in serving healthful, appealing meals and underscored USDA’s commitment to help them overcome any remaining challenges they face in meeting the nutrition standards.
“The hard work and dedication of the people who prepare nutritious meals for our children should serve as an example to all, and we will continue to support them,” Perdue said. “We also have a responsibility to our shareholders and our customers – the American taxpayers – to provide our school children with healthful and nutritious meals in the most efficient and cost effective way possible.”
For more information, please view a copy of Secretary Perdue’s proclamation (PDF, 123 KB).
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that include the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), and the Summer Food Service Program. Together, these programs comprise America’s nutrition safety net. For more information, visit www.fns.usda.gov.
Information contained on this page is provided by the company via press release distributed by the company, organization, agency or other “source.” Vending Times Inc. and VendingTimes.com make no warranties or representations in connection therewith.