Any parent or teacher will tell you that children need healthy and filling meals to grow and learn. In fact, studies overwhelmingly show that students with a balanced diet are much more alert and engaged in the classroom than students without a proper diet. With nearly 40 million children nationwide relying on the National School Lunch and Breakfast Program for their meals, it's particularly important that we give students the fuel they need to stay full, healthy, and ready to learn.
In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to provide children with healthier meals, educate them about making nutritious food choices, and encourage healthy eating habits. As schools began to implement this new nutrition standard, I was contacted by concerned Arkansas administrations, teachers, parents, and community members. The new rule's one-size-fits-all approach was leaving students hungry, and school districts frustrated with the additional expense and paperwork.
That's why I teamed up with Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to give our school districts greater flexibility in implementing these new rules. Thanks to our letter, the USDA announced that they would modify the rules and lift limitations on the maximum requirements of grains and proteins for the next two school years.
I'm pleased the USDA has given schools additional flexibility, but I'm continuing to work to make these changes permanent. This week Senator Hoeven and I introduced the Sensible School Lunch Act that will permanently remove the strict caps on proteins and grains, and give school food authorities the flexibility they need to meet nutritional requirements. With the backing of the Arkansas and National School Nutrition Association--along with other groups--I'm confident we can pass this legislation swiftly to ensure our students receive nutritious, well-balanced meals at school.