The United States Department of Agriculture announced Friday temporary changes made in its school lunch guidelines have been made permanent.
Such changes include eliminating the limit for how much protein and grain can be included in school lunches. Calorie limits will remain in effect.
Bill Froese, director of food services at the McPherson School District, said this announcement will make food planning easier for his school district. Until the announcement, there was some uncertainty as to whether the protein and grain limits would be reinstated.
“It lets us proceed in our current direction,” Froese said. “It allows us more flexibility.”
A group of senators, including Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan., have been pushing to make these changes permanent since at least November, when they sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack expressing concerns with the school lunch standards.
“The children, parents, and school systems attempting to comply with these new school meal standards have found that they lack the flexibility necessary to meet the nutrition needs of many growing boys and girls,” the senators wrote. “It is important to note that these new standards do not appear to affect all school districts equally, as rural schools and low-income students are especially challenged.”
Moran said these new permanent guidelines will help parents and schools provide children with healthy food.
“School lunch program decisions should be made in schools at the local level — not mandated by the government in Washington, D.C.,” Moran said. “This decision is good news for parents, school budgets and food suppliers.”
Froese said the relaxed policies have made providing nutrition food students will eat a much easier task because it allows schools to adjust menus based on which meals students prefer.
“When they first came out, it was like solving a Rubik’s Cube,” Froese said. “Now, it’s like solving a puzzle.”
Julie Martin, food services coordinator at Smoky Valley School District, said many smaller districts can’t afford to serve lunch without federal aid based on meeting federal guidelines.
“We’re working hard to keep everything in compliance and making meals the kids will eat,” Martin said. “We can’t afford not to.”
While Bill Seidl, superintendent of Canton-Galva School District, declined to comment on USDA’s guidelines, he said his district takes nutrition seriously and works to make sure no student goes home hungry.
Chris Ruder, assistant superintendent of McPherson School District, said the certainty that comes with this new ruling is a boon for schools.
“We’re glad it’s permanent,” Ruder said. “It’s better than before, when we weren’t sure if the guidelines were going to change again.”
Page 2 of 2 - Contact Josh Arnett by email at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.