(School kids have been complaining about the Michelle Obama effect on their school lunches.)
The budget deal won't end their complaints, of course, as it is a small tweak and a reaction to big criticisms of some of the changes. This is mainly about whole grains versus half grains rather than greasy pizza versus carrots.
The exact language begins on page 99 of the massive bill:
The secretary shall allow States to grant an exemption from the whole grain requirements that took effect on or after July 1, 2014, and the States shall establish a process for evaluating and responding, in a reasonable amount of time, to requests for an exemption, Provided, That school food authorities demonstrate hardship, including financial hardship, in procuring specific whole grain products which are acceptable to the students and compliant with the whole grain-rich requirements: Provided further, That school food authorities shall comply with the applicable grain component or standard with respect to the school lunch or school breakfast program that was in effect prior to July 1, 2014
The measure also freezes the previous sodium reductions in "meals, foods, and snacks sold in schools ... until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children."
Officials at the School Nutrition Association welcome these exemptions and are urging their 55,000 members to back the deal. The group has long complained about "plate waste" (kids tossing food they don't like in the garbage) and has blamed the declining participation in the school lunch program on the recent changes.
The Government Accountability Office tracked the results of the new regulations in schools across the country in a January report.
The issue -- and really Michelle Obama in general -- has been a lightning rod for the right, with conservatives painting her as reaching onto kid's lunch plates and filling it with food they don't like. (For what it's worth, George W. Bush signed the bi-partisan Child Nutrition Act in July 2004, citing the need to curb childhood obesity.)
Here's an example of this, from the Daily Caller:
I reached out to the White House and here's their take, from Sam Kass, the outgoing White House chef and executive director of Michelle Obama's "Let’s Move!" campaign:
In light of the efforts to roll back school nutrition standards, we consider the minor adjustments to the standards a real win for kids and parents. The Administration will continue to support districts across the country in every way we can to achieve the goal of providing good, nutritious food for students. –
Obama has undeniably left her mark on what kids get offered in the lunch line, and these tweaks halt some of those changes. Conservatives and some school officials will likely be unsatisfied and continue to raise concerns about cost and local control.
And kids will never, ever stop complaining about cafeteria food.