Michelle Obama speaking at a podium with "Let's Move" written on it

Congress Backtracks on Health and Nutrition Standards

In 2010, Congress passed a landmark reauthorization of child nutrition programs, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Along with as the expansion of the free lunch and after school meals programs, the law significantly improved nutritional guidelines for school meals in line with scientific consensus on reducing obesity and improving the health of our nation’s children. Unfortunately, some members of Congress are hard at work attempting to roll back some of the law’s standards.

Broadly, these standards, “Increased the amount of fruits and vegetables served, emphasizes whole grain-rich foods, requires only lower fat and nonfat milk, limits calories, and reduces saturated fat and sodium.” In an effort to halt these important changes, some members of the House of Representatives have attached an amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill that would waive the nutritional requirements until next school year for schools where the school lunch program is losing money. It remains unclear how this waiver would change school’s profitability and could potentially just become a consistently renewed waiver, permanently preventing the implementation of nutrition standards in some schools.

First Lady Michelle Obama, a vocal advocate not only in favor of the Healthy, Hunger-Kids Free Act but also for improved child health and nutrition generally, voiced her opposition in recent days to any waivers that postpone the implementation of these standards. A group of retired U.S. military leaders have also come out in support of the standards, taking into consideration the impact the rising rate of childhood obesity has not simply on the ability of military recruits to physically perform the tasks demanded of them, but also who is fit to be recruited in the first place.

In response to these effort and additional (and seemingly successful) efforts to include white potatoes in the WIC program, the Union for Reform Judaism signed on to the following letter with over 100 other national organizations :

We, the undersigned organizations, strongly oppose efforts to use the appropriations process to change or weaken federal child nutrition programs, including potential efforts to require the inclusion of white potatoes in the WIC Program, to alter or delay implementation of meal standards in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, or to weaken or delay rules to limit sugary beverages and unhealthy snack foods in our nation’s schools.  For decades, Congress has wisely ensured that federal child nutrition programs have been guided by science.  Science-based decisions have served our children and our nation well.  Accordingly, we strongly urge you to oppose efforts to intervene in science-based rules regarding the federal child nutrition programs.

We hope our policymakers listen to the advice of scientists and continue to follow through with the implementation process of the health and nutrition standards enacted in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.




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Howie Levine

About Howie Levine

Howie Levine is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is originally from St. Paul, MN where he is a member of Mt. Zion Temple. He recently graduated from Tufts University.

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