The School Nutrition Association (SNA), representing 50,000 school nutrition professionals across the country, is urging the USDA not to implement newly proposed rules that are “unachievable for most schools nationwide.”
“As schools nationwide contend with persistent supply chain, labor and financial challenges, school meal programs are struggling to successfully maintain current standards and need support, not additional, unrealistic requirements,” SNA President Lori Adkins said in a statement released Friday.
“We see children choose not to eat at all if a meal is not familiar or appetizing to them, and it’s heartbreaking, particularly for food insecure families who rely on school meals,” Adkins notes in the press release.
In particular, the Biden Administration’s USDA is proposing stricter limits on the sodium and sugar content of school meals.
According to SNA’s national 2023 School Nutrition Trends Survey of school meal program directors, 88.8% of respondents reported challenges even obtaining sufficient menu items (e.g. whole-grain, low-sodium, low-fat options) to meet the current standards.
Likewise, more than nine in ten school meal program directors are concerned about:
- Menu item shortages, discontinued menu items and supply shortages,
- Staff shortages, which can limit efforts to increase scratch cooking, and
- availability of foods that both meet sodium limits and are acceptable to students.
Students’ refusal to accept smaller, unsavory school means became an acute problem when the Obama Administration imposed stricter standards – causing student participation in meal programs to abruptly decline after 30 years of steady growth.
Students became so disgusted with their skimpy, stomach-turning school meals that they began tweeting out photos of them in protest. Using the sarcastic hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama, they mocked the then-First Lady’s campaign to limit what students were allowed to eat.
During the Trump Administration, an effort was made to give school nutritionists greater flexibility and the ability to make school meals more appetizing. But, the new rules, if imposed, threaten to prompt another social media backlash by hungry students nauseated by the new meals.
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