Colorado senator blocks USDA rules that would have limited starchy foods in federally funded school lunch programs
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Children everywhere are breathing a deep sigh of relief, after Democratic Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), passed legislation ensuring that school cafeterias will continue to be a safe haven for tater tots for the foreseeable future.
An amendment to the Department of Agriculture appropriations bill co-sponsored by the two lawmakers would prevent the department from implementing new rules aimed at stemming the rising tide of childhood obesity.
In a press release, Udall to put a positive spin on the measure, saying it will give schools more flexibility to provide nutritious meals while working within tight budgets.
The USDA rules would have limited starchy vegetables, including potatoes, peas, corn and lima beans, to one cup per week on the lunch menu and eliminated potatoes from school breakfasts. Read more here …
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis supported the rules when they were announced early in the year.
“The new school meals rule will ensure that children are eating better foods at school and are therefore more prepared to learn and are less likely to suffer from obesity and related illnesses,” Polis said. “Healthier school meals are a smart investment in our children and will save us billions in health costs down the road.”
Health experts said the new standards will reduce health care costs stemming from health problems partly caused by low-quality school food, including the estimated $344 billion national cost of obesity costs through 2018.
“USDA is doing an excellent job of updating the school meal standards, which are currently 15 years out-of-date. The standards are not only grounded in science but are achievable, as has been shown by thousands of schools,” said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
About one in three children is overweight or obese, and rising rates of Type II diabetes among children, along with other health problems such as hypertension, have some origin in the poor nutritional quality of food offered at public schools, according to health experts.
The proposed standards would significantly increase fruit and vegetables at lunch (one cup per day), require that they be served daily, require minimum amounts of dark green vegetables and place limits on starchy vegetables.
Udall said he believes that responsible preparation is key to healthy meals.
“I’m proud that Senator Collins and I were able to find a balance that ensures our kids are getting the proper nutrients in their school meals while still allowing schools the flexibility to serve affordable, healthy and local food,” Udall said. “As schools budget for food services, we can’t hamstring their ability to create healthful meals using nutritious and popular vegetables. The lessons we should be teaching our kids is that it’s not about any one vegetable; it’s how you cook it,” he said.
Udall’s amendment wouldn’t affect other parts of the USDA rules that would increase fruit and vegetables at lunch to one cup per day and require daily, minimum amounts of dark green vegetables. Whole grains, lean meats, lower-fat milk, age-specific calorie limits, sodium limits and trans fat prohibitions are also part of the proposed standards.