Students turning noses up at new lunch rules

Published 11:14 am Wednesday, June 18, 2014

With 93 percent of the Bogalusa school-age children receiving free or reduced lunches during the year, Joannie Miller, director of Child Nutrition Programs for Bogalusa Schools, said Congress needs some flexibility when it comes to healthy food standards.

Miller was one of eight School Nutrition Association, or SNA, members who were selected to participate in a recent nationwide conference call to discuss problems surrounding child nutrition in schools. Following the call, Miller was even quoted in an article in USA Today.

New federal standards were passed into law by the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. A recent vote of an appropriations bill in the House of Representatives was delayed because language in the bill allowed schools to opt out of new healthy food standards. The SNA believes those new standards are too rigid.

“This was something we’ve been working on for the past two years to get that flexibility in our program,” Miller said. “We’ve found the regulations to be very restrictive. We support the Healthy Hungry-Free Kids Act, but the regulations that are to start at the beginning of next school year are even more restrictive.”

The School Nutrition Association represents 55,000 school cafeterias around the country. Critics of the Act said school children are simply walking away from the program without eating.

The nutrition association reported that since the new standards were put in place in 2012, more than 1 million children have stopped eating school lunches, according to the USA Today article. The association also said many students who still participate and are required to take the mandatory fruit and vegetable servings aren’t eating them, resulting in $3.8 million of wasted produce thrown in the trash each day.

“The SNA wants to work with Congress to come up with a common-sense solution,” read Miller’s statement in USA Today. “The nutritional standards should not be one-size-fits-all.”

Miller vowed to continue the fight.

“I just wrote Fifth District Congressman Vance McCallister,” Miller told the Daily News on Tuesday. “I plan a letter-writing campaign to all of our Louisiana senators and representatives, along with sending out alerts to all cafeteria directors in the state.”