Late on Saturday evening, December 13th, the U.S. Senate passed the 2015 Omnibus Spending Bill already passed the the House of Representatives, a bill that included provisions easing some of the requirements mandated by the 2010 Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act.
These include suspending sodium reduction requirements and granting exemptions for districts struggling with the whole grain requirement. It would also prohibit USDA from spending money to buy chicken products imported from China for use in the school lunch program, the Child and Adult Food Care Program, the Summer Food Service Program for Children or the school breakfast program.
The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature, which is expected to be granted. (UPDATE: President Obama signed the bill into law on December 16)
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) was quick to commend Congress for its action.
“Congress has taken a critical first step toward addressing the challenges school nutrition professionals face as they implement new nutrition standards,” says SNA CEO Patricia Montague, CAE. “Although well-intended, some of USDA’s rules went too far, too fast, and ended up driving students away from healthy school meals while unnecessarily driving up costs for schools.”
“SNA will continue to work with USDA and Congress in the coming year to advocate for commonsense changes to improve the regulations and protect the financial viability of school meal programs,” Montague adds.
While the Association supports strong federal nutrition standards, including limits on calories and mandates to offer more fruits and vegetables, it is calling for flexibility under the new rules as outlined in its 2015 Position Paper, to be released in early January.