By BROOKE BINNS
PHILIPPI, W.Va. — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Monday that school meals will no longer have to meet certain federal requirements, and local school officials say the decision may have an effect on the meals served to area children.
In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was introduced, and for the last five years schools have been complying with nutrition standards that were part of it. The act was a signature program of former first lady Michelle Obama, who was dedicated to promoting healthy lunches in schools across the United States.
Changes to school meal guidelines will not come into effect until next year, after discussion by the state Board of Education and within individual counties.
Ronda Jones, food service supervisor for Barbour County Schools, expects that changes will be discussed in the upcoming months in Barbour County.
“This is still not 100 percent in stone, the State Child Nutrition Board will be having a meeting in May to determine more things,” Jones said. “The federal government has guidelines, but our state has more strict guidelines.”
However, according to information in the New York Times, schools will be able to request exemption from whole grain requirements and sodium mandates that were part of school lunch guidelines implemented by Obama’s initiative.
Since the requirements were introduced in 2012, schools have been required to increase fruit and vegetable options in addition to whole grains while also offering nonfat milk.
Schools were also required to reduce the amount of calories, fat and sodium in meals provided.
It is suggested by Perdue that school districts have seen an increase in cost because of the changes made in 2012, and Jones confirmed that Barbour County was one county in West Virginia that saw this increase.
While changes may be made to school lunch guidelines related to Obama’s initiative, Jones explained that West Virginia also has its own state requirements.
Perdue’s announcement has created controversy across the country.
In a comment to the New York Times, Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said of President Donald Trump, “The president’s fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn’t let Colonel Sanders and McDonald’s run the school cafeteria.”
Others say they are pleased by the regulation changes.
Also in the New York Times, Patricia Montague, chief executive of the National School Nutrition Association, is quoted as saying, “We have been wanting flexibility so that schools can serve meals that are both nutritious and palatable.”
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