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Moran says USDA agrees to make changes to school lunch program

1/3/2014

Special to The Hays Daily News

Special to The Hays Daily News

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., announced Friday the U.S. Department of Agriculture has agreed to enact permanent changes to the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program requirements in response to a request he submitted along with several of his Senate colleagues, including U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

In December 2012, USDA made temporary changes to the program in response to a letter sent by the senators. Moran and Roberts also sponsored the Sensible School Lunch Act, legislation likely to pass this month to make the changes permanent. In response to the legislation, the USDA now will make the changes administratively.

"I don't think there is any question that all of us want our children to eat nutritious foods, but the USDA rule contains impractical and unrealistic standards that leave students hungry and are cost-prohibitive for schools to comply with," Moran said. "School lunch program decisions should be made in schools at the local level -- not mandated by the government in Washington, D.C. This decision is good news for parents, school budgets and food suppliers. Unfunded mandates like this one were making it even harder for schools to provide healthy meals to our kids."

The USDA plans to publish a final rule Friday in the Federal Register on Certification of Compliance with Meal Requirements for the National School Lunch Program under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The final rule includes a provision to make permanent the grain and meat/meat-alternate flexibility USDA has used on account of the senators' efforts during the past year. Under the final rule, schools will be considered compliant with the new meal requirements if they meet the weekly minimums for grain and meat/meat-alternates, as well as the total calorie ranges.

The senators' effort to change the rule was prompted by parents, school board members, superintendents and other concerned community members expressing their frustration as the new rule was rolled out. The rule became effective in March 2012 and was implemented for the 2013 school year. Prior to today's decision, USDA lifted its strict limitations on caloric intake of grains and starches, as well as protein, but only for the 2012-13 school year. The move gave significantly more flexibility to schools and students, especially athletes.