Rep. Kristi Noem today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) responded to her September 13th and October 18th letters on the new school lunch standards. USDA replied to specific questions posed by Rep. Noem and announced it would be providing schools increased flexibility in the current year on maximums for grains and meats in the school meal program. Rep. Noem has put substantial pressure on USDA to improve flexibility for schools working to implement new standards under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
"It is clear that the pressure from students, parents and food service directors has put USDA on notice," said Rep. Noem. "I am pleased USDA has taken action to increase flexibility in the current year, and will continue to pursue more flexibility to address the fundamental struggles students and schools are experiencing. That is why I requested a Government Accountability Office study. This study will help Congress determine what action to take to improve the standards in a way that ensures kids are fed nutritious and filling meals in a way that is also cost effective for our schools."
Rep. Noem has visited a number of South Dakota schools and spoken with students, parents, teachers, food service directors and administrators and has heard concerns regarding the adequacy of the calorie maximum, the cost of the new requirements, and increased food waste in school cafeterias. Many schools are also concerned the requirements limit their flexibility and make it more difficult to adapt their menus to meet the preferences and needs of their students and school communities.
Rep. Noem has been a leading voice on questioning the new standards. Most recently, she was joined by House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Representative Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) in requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study into the new standards. On November 28, Rep. Noem announced that the GAO had agreed to conduct the study, which will help determine the on-the-ground impacts of the new standards and provide guidance on how Congress might be able to address challenges.
To read USDA's response to Rep. Noem's September 13th letter, click here.
To read USDA's response to Rep. Noem's October 18th letter, click here.