First Lady Michelle Obama is vowing to fight any rollbacks of the healthy school lunch standards passed as part of the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, reports the Washington Post. In a conference call on May 19th with health activists, the First Lady forcefully urged her listeners to fight efforts to allow schools to opt out of the mandates to reduce sodium, increase whole grains, and increase servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in lunches.
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) had released a statement from SNA President Leah Schmidt the same day as the First Lady's conference call, which urged Congress to provide some more flexibility in its school lunch regulations.
At issue is a House bill up for consideration by the Appropriations Committee that would allow schools to apply for waivers from the federally mandated standards if the school’s food program had recorded a financial loss for six months in a row. The Senate Appropriations Committee may soon take up a similar proposal.
UPDATE: In a response to the conference call and a followup meeting at the White House on May 27th with a select group of school nutrition directors, SNA President Leah Schmidt said, "Although we are disappointed that the First Lady is only going to speak with a handful of pre-selected school nutrition directors today, the School Nutrition Association remains committed to working with Mrs. Obama, the USDA, and Congress to ensure students receive healthy, appealing school meals.
“SNA does not want to gut the nutrition standards—we support many of the requirements," Schmidt noted. "Our request for flexibility under the new standards does not come from industry or politics; it comes from thousands of school cafeteria professionals who have shown how these overly prescriptive regulations are hindering their effort to get students to eat healthy school meals.”