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School nutrition standards likely to change


Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT, W.Va.  — Nutrition standards in public schools increased throughout the Barack Obama administration, but those are expected to be lowered with Donald Trump as president.

Watson Elementary cafeteria manager Tammy Myers works alongside cooks Christie Casto and Tammy Herlihy to prepare lunches for the students.
(Photo by Leah Nestor)

Various news outlets such as National Public Radio have confirmed Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue aims to include again white breads and 1 percent milk as well as to halt a mandate reducing sodium levels further.

Superintendent of Marion County Schools Gary Price noted his concerns that there are too many state regulations on top of federal regulations concerning school nutrition.

“Some people fail to understand that the purpose of the child nutrition program is to feed the children,” Price stated. “Not to be a panacea to correct a lot of other ills they see with society and children in school.”

He said officials need to be concerned with providing students a good, nutritious meal that they will eat.

Marion County school nutrition program director Terri Atha said the children in Marion County are already used to the current standards. In her opinion, there is not a difference in taste between the current standards and a more relaxed standard.

Although she said there may not be much difference in altering the standards, she is concerned about the potential decrease because she does not want to go backward on the current requirements.

“My concern is if they relax the standards and then a new administration comes in, they could bring the standards back up to where we’re at today,” she explained. “And I don’t want the kids to be yo-yoed between different standards.”

Watson Elementary cafeteria manager Tammy Myers has worked in school cafeterias for 16 years. She said students have always resisted eating their fruits and vegetables. With the regulations of the Obama administration, she has noticed just a slight increase in waste, she said.

“The students are forced to take a half a cup of fruit or vegetable, and that’s where we see the waste,” she explained.

Although she noted some waste, she also said she would hate to go backward in school nutrition standards.

“I still think it’s important for nutritional value to have the fruits and vegetables, I just don’t know if it’s — kind of, you’re forcing them to take it instead of having an option, you know.”

Atha said of what’s served in schools today, “The meals that we feed them right now adhere to the highest standards for whole grains, sodium and fat content.”

However, Price said, “Children’s bodies and adult bodies work differently. You can’t take the same positive health things that you do as an adult and say, ‘OK, automatically these will work for children.’”

He explained that it’s one thing to reduce some in areas where it is unhealthy, but to completely eliminate some of those may be harmful.

“We have seen people who have gone on diets that are extremely limiting in one area or another,” he said. “And oftentimes, that causes them many other health problems. So we don’t want to do for the children.”

The School Nutrition Association is asking that standards be relaxed and attributes the regulations to student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste.

SNA contends that future sodium restrictions be eliminated and the target 1 sodium level reinforced, according to the SNA Position Paper.

“Naturally occurring sodium present in meat, milk and other low-fat dairy foods will force schools to take nutritious choices off the menu, including many soups, entrée salads and lowfat deli sandwiches,” it reads.

While more students are eating whole-grain-rich breads, SNA has said schools struggle to meet students’ regional and cultural preferences.

“Schools should be permitted to serve white rice, pasta, grits, bagels or tortillas on occasion, just like most families do,” the Flexibility Fact Sheet states.

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