Republicans propose waivers for school food programs
U.S. House Republicans are proposing to let some schools opt out of healthier school lunch and breakfast programs if they are losing money.
A GOP spending bill for agriculture and food programs approved 31-18 by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday would allow schools to apply for waivers if they have a net loss on school food programs for six months in a row.
“This bill invests in the people of this country — in their safety, their livelihoods, and their communities — and ensures that our agricultural industries are successful, productive and safe,” said committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. “In addition, this bill supports nutrition programs that help to make sure our most vulnerable — including children and the elderly — do not go hungry, and funds important programs to keep our food and drug supply safe.”
However, as cash-strapped as some Mon-Yough area districts may be, local schools are declining the offer.
“This would not affect us,” South Allegheny School District spokeswoman Laura Thomson said. “South Allegheny is not considering opting out.”
“We are not opting out of the program at this time,” West Jefferson Hills School District director of finance Tracy Harris said. “This has not been discussed.”
“Our food services department is budgeted to break even for the year,” Steel Valley Superintendent Ed Wehrer said. “At this time we do not anticipate having a net loss.”
“At this point we are nearly certain that the bill will not affect the McKeesport Area School District,” spokeswoman Kristen Giran said. “Currently, we do not lose money in the program but understand that the bottom line is affected by the standards.”
As championed by first lady Michelle Obama, new standards were phased in over the last two school years, with more changes coming this year. The rules set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond.
“We did receive just this week notice that we will be participating in the federal fresh fruit and vegetable program, which will give us additional money to provide snacks, fresh fruit and vegetable snacks,” Duquesne City School District spokeswoman Sarah McCluan said. “We would not be applying for the waiver.”
On Tuesday, the first lady rallied supporters of her healthier food rules at a roundtable touted on her letsmove.gov website.
“The last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids' health,” Obama said. “Now is not the time to roll back everything that we have worked for.”
While many schools have had success putting the rules in place, others have said the rules are too restrictive and costly.
“School meal programs need more flexibility to plan menus that increase student consumption of healthy choices while limiting waste,” said Leah Schmidt, president of the School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies who sell food to schools.
The House bill is part of a budget process that includes Senate subcommittee action on its own version of a food and farm spending bill. The House Appropriations Committee said in a release the waiver language is in response to requests from schools, but the first lady said more than 90 percent of schools are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards.
The School Nutrition Association says almost half of school meal programs reported declines in revenue in the 2012-13 school year and 90 percent said food costs were up.
“Our administrators have not noticed a difference in the amount or the type of food that is being thrown away,” Duquesne's McCluan said. “Very little food is thrown away. We have not noticed a difference over the past year or the past few years.”
Norwin spokesman Jonathan Szish said his district's food and nutrition services director said the legislation would not affect schools in the Irwin-North Huntingdon Township-North Irwin district.
Elizabeth Forward Superintendent Bart Rocco declined comment, saying he needed more information about the legislation.
“Our cafeterias just provide the best service we can, and follow the federal guidelines,” Rocco said. “We're not here to make or lose money.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- After 27 years, Clairton emerges from state ‘financially distressed’ status
- North Versailles’ Dance Company’s ‘Nutcracker’ expands with bonus program for students
- Detective testifies Homestead man punched him
- McKeesport Area could bring back Air Force Junior ROTC program
- Elizabeth proposes big jump in small local services tax; councilwoman steps down
- Clairton City School District wins award for its anti-hunger efforts
- McKeesport budget smaller; no tax hike planned
- Salvation Army kettle drive about to kick into high gear in Western Pennsylvania
- Model train exhibit raises funds for McKeesport club
- Homestead to offer select free-parking days during holiday season
- Kennywood Holiday Lights festival returns for 5th year