The Department of Agriculture's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" serve as the basis for school nutrition standards. The dietary guidelines list potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D as "nutrients of concern in American diets" because people aren't eating enough of them. Yet, in proposed standards for the school breakfast and lunch programs issued in January, lima beans, peas, corn and potatoes were all limited to one cup per week per student in the school lunch program and eliminated entirely in the school breakfast program.
Lima beans are one of the best sources, if not the best source, of dietary fiber. Potatoes are the best source of potassium -- more than bananas. It would appear that somebody, somewhere in the USDA, didn't get the memo.
As a mother and grandmother, I want the best nutrition for my family. As a Member of Congress, I want to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. Fortunately, better nutrition and financial responsibility are not mutually exclusive, especially when it comes to the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
The proposed changes to the breakfast and lunch programs would have a number of unintended, yet very real consequences. By USDA's own estimation, the increased costs of the proposed menu changes would be $0.50 per school breakfast and $0.14 per school lunch. Nationwide this translates to $6.8 billion of increased costs over five years, the bulk of which are associated with this vegetable limitation. These are real costs that will be thrust upon the participating schools to make up at a time when they do not have extra funds.
To remove or limit vegetables from schools that our children and grandchildren actually like and will eat is simply misguided. But to make it more difficult for our schools to provide the best nutrition to those most in need of it is more than misguided. It is irresponsible.
We can all agree that childhood obesity in America is a serious problem. However, lima beans, peas, corn and potatoes predate any kind of childhood obesity epidemic and needlessly attacking them gets us no closer to fixing the issue. What we need is a solution, not a scapegoat. Fortunately, there is still time for USDA to do the right thing.