The federal government is responding to criticisms that its school lunch rules are too strict. In a letter to members of Congress on Friday, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the USDA will do away with calorie limits on meat and grains:
This flexibility is being provided to allow more time for the development of products that fit within the new standards while granting schools additional weekly menu planning options to help ensure that children receive a wholesome, nutritious meal every day of the week.
Vilsack also defended the rules. He wrote they’re ensuring twice the amount of fruits and vegetables in school lunches, and a “substantial” increase in the use of whole grains.
The new regulations became a campaign issue in the 21st Congressional district race between Bill Owens and Matt Doheny. NCPR’s Julie Grant reported that neither candidate was happy with them.
In a press release today, Owens – who was elected to a second full term – praised Vilsack’s decision, saying, “USDA set guidelines for school lunches that just didn’t work for many students, parents and school administrators.” Owens said he would talk further with local school food service directors to see if any further changes are needed.
Julie’s story got at the heart of some of the consequences when bureaucracy meets reality in the case of school lunches.
In Potsdam, David Gravlin used to make homemade soup nearly every day: “We do butternut squash and apple, we do tomato, macaroni and beef, chicken noodle, we did a pumpkin soup. We probably did 30 different soups at different points.”
But when you ladle tomato, macaroni, and beef soup, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a serving of tomato, a serving of macaroni, and a serving of beef. So schools can’t serve soup anymore.