U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., have announced the Committee will hold a business meeting in January 2016 to mark up bipartisan legislation reauthorizing child nutrition programs.
“Child nutrition reauthorization will be the Committee’s first priority in the new year,” Roberts promised in a Committee press release. “I’m proud to say this will be a bipartisan bill—a bill many folks said we couldn’t get done. I look forward to working with Ranking Member Stabenow to carry this across the finish line.”
That bipartisan spirit is being tested in a number of other areas that impact school meal programs, such as the federal dietary standards that are used to shape school menus. A recent tussle between food industry and advocacy groups, and their Congressional allies, over the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has resulted in the addition of a provision into a massive omnibus spending bill ready to pass Congress that would limit the committee's purview. The committee, whose recommendations influence federal dietary guidelines, angered some industry groups with a recommendation issued earlier this year that eating habits should encourage environmental sustainability, according to a report in Bloomberg Business.
That same $1.1 billion omnibus bill also has a variety of other provisions affecting meal programs, from a ban on purchasing Chinese chicken for use in school meal programs and a prohibition on Russian fisheries using the term “Alaskan pollock” to describe pollock, to halting genetically modified salmon from hitting the market until the FDA comes up with a way to label it.
And it also includes provisions that would give schools flexibility in how they implement whole-grain standards required by the Healthy, Hungry-Free, Kids Act, and halt further reductions in the sodium content of school lunches. Another provision gives schools $30 million for equipment grants.