The recent $1.1 trillion omnibus funding bill passed by Congress doesn’t just fund the federal government — it also included “report” language directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools to delay implementing nutritional guidelines for school snacks and drinks. If enforced, schools could have been allowed to apply for a one-year waiver to certify that they cannot implement the new guidelines because they would be too costly. The waiver also would apply to schools who do not believe they can meet new school breakfast program guidelines.
But we have good news to report. While Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had previously testified before Congress that he does not believe he has legal authority to do so, he reinforced that message when he sent a letter last week to Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, stating that he does not believe he has the authority.
Many in the childhood obesity movement are opposed to the waiver. The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) sent Aderholt and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) a letter expressing their concern with the waiver proposal. “This language has the potential to undermine decades of hard work by parents, education and health professionals, schools, and members of Congress from both political parties to establish practical, science-based nutrition guidelines for all foods sold in schools,” the letter reads.
Despite challenges, 90 percent of school districts across the country have reported they are meeting nutrition standards for school meals, the coalition adds in its letter. Many of those schools already are improving the nutritional quality of school snacks and drinks.