Don’t Gut the Healthy School Lunch Program


Target: Representative Robert Aderholt, Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman

Goal: Don’t gut school lunch nutrition standards

Republicans in the House of Representatives recently made a bid to undermine changes to federal school lunch nutrition standards that were put in place by the Obama administration in 2010. The new standards, part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, required public school cafeterias to increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that they offer to children, while decreasing the amounts of fat, salt, and sugar that are allowed. The new legislation is part of an agriculture budget bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee Agriculture Subcommittee, which would grant waivers to schools that have had difficulty improving the quality of their meals.

The original school lunch legislation was a major part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to reduce childhood obesity through her “Let’s Move!” initiative. In an op-ed written for the New York Times, the First Lady criticized the new rule, saying “[r]emember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches? You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.” Around 32 million children in the U.S. participate in school meal programs every day.

The chairman of the subcommittee claims that the waivers are needed because the new requirements are too expensive for some schools, despite the fact that over 90 percent of schools have already successfully implemented the improved standards. Rather than putting the impetus on the USDA to to help struggling schools, the waiver would allow these schools to opt out completely, putting already high-risk children at even more of a disadvantage. The nutrition standards that we hold our childcare providers to should be based on wisdom from doctors and nutritionists, not on politics. Tell Republicans in the House to stop undermining efforts to fight childhood obesity by improving the quality of school lunches.


Dear Mr. Aderholt,

Childhood obesity is one of America’s great shames. In a country as wealthy, as entrepreneurial, and as scientifically advanced as ours, we should be able to figure out how to stem this public health crisis.

Great advances were made and the rising tide of sick children finally began to slow with the advent of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, a bill that was passed by Congress with strong bipartisan support. The schools that are finding it difficult to provide healthy food for their students should be aided in whatever way is most feasible, not encouraged to rely on cheaper foods that are highly processed and loaded with junk. Since many of these schools are in low-income areas, these same students are already at a higher risk for obesity and diabetes.

The recent efforts of Republicans in the House to roll back these nutrition standards is a sad testament to our legislators’ inability to overcome partisan politics, even for the sake of improving the health our nation’s children. Please do not allow politics to stand in the way giving all kids access to fruits, vegetables, and a healthy future.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Pieter Kuiper via Flickr

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