GOP, nutritionists happy with school lunch change

Published: January 7 2014 | 8:08 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:44 am in

JAN. 06, 2014

After more than a year of outcry, a very popular video went viral and a lobbying campaign by the lunch ladies, the USDA has backed down on strict rules for school lunches that were aimed at combatting obesity.

The government says it was needed so school nutritionists had more flexibility in planning.

But farm country says it’s a victory over the Obama Administration’s “regulatory outreach.”

As USA Today reported late last week, USDA eased the restrictions, offering larger portions of lean meat and whole grains and upping the calorie counts.

The change delighted farm country, protein providers and, well, school kids. They said students needed more food, especially in rural areas, because in addition to athletics they are often doing lots of chores, burning many more calories than their urban counterparts.

“This has been a battle for common sense in the cafeteria,” Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said in a press release quickly issued after the USDA announcement.  “These guidelines were leaving students hungry throughout the school day and athletic events, in the end we were able to convince USDA to listen to reason.”

Roberts and other conservatives had fought the changes, first floated by First Lady Michele Obama as part of her healthy eating campaign. Republicans helped push a video done by some Kansas school kids, “We Are Hungry,” which has had more than 1.3 million views. Set to the popular song “We Are Young,” and lead by a kid wearing a “I (heart) beef” T-shirt, the kids are shown passing out during sports practice and stocking up on junk food at a convenience store.

Meanwhile, the USDA says its delivering on a promise made to school lunch folks.

“Earlier this school year, USDA made a commitment to school nutrition professionals that we would make the meat and grain flexibility permanent and provide needed stability for long-term planning,” said Kevin Concannon, a USDA official.

The School Nutrition Association, which had lobbied for the change, applauded the move, saying the original rules “inadvertently took a variety of healthy foods off the menu in school cafeterias.”

Many schools could not offer daily sandwich choices because serving two slices of whole-grain bread each day exceeded weekly grain limits, and salads topped with grilled chicken and low fat cheese surpassed weekly protein limits.

But perhaps the change is best wrapped up with this Marie Antoinette-inspired headline: “Let them eat sandwiches.”

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