Hartzler Introduces School Lunch Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-4) issued the following statement after introducing the H.R. 5686, the School Lunch Affordability Act:
“I introduced H.R. 5686 to permanently provide relief to School Food Authorities (SFA) from the federally mandated Paid Lunch Equity (PLE) formula that requires some schools to increase lunch prices each year. This arbitrary price increase, mandated miles away by Washington, has no impact on nutritional content and puts unnecessary pressure on hardworking American families leading to more hungry students,” Hartzler said.
“As a mother and former nutrition teacher, I know the importance of students having access to quality, nutritious, affordable school lunches. Over the past several years, I have heard from parents, students, teachers, school administrators, and nutrition professionals about the previous administration’s onerous mandates, burdensome paperwork, and unrealistic targets forced upon schools participating in the National School Lunch Program. The heavy-handed top-down requirements have forced schools to raise the cost of their school lunches and discouraged many children from participating.
“Additionally, I am pleased the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) listened to those who care most about our kids and continue working to adjust school food programs to allow flexibility, so more children participate in these programs that are so vital to their health. The USDA’s recent proposed rules allows local schools to offer more vegetable assortments, while keeping plenty of vegetables in every meal served. It also makes it much easier for local schools to offer lunches a la carte, helping to reduce food waste, and it gives schools more flexibility to tailor meal patterns, the flexibility needed for smaller schools with children in varying grades eating together.
“Here in Congress, I have advocated for the importance of moving to a five-year review cycle, which USDA’s current proposal seeks to resolve, and adjustments to the sodium level requirements, which USDA addressed in a final rule published in 2018.
“In addition, in the most recent appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2020, I successfully advocated for a change to the minimum USDA School Kitchen Equipment grant, allowing schools more opportunities to purchase the equipment necessary to prepare healthy foods such as salad bars, mobile milk coolers, and food processors.
“Ultimately, my efforts combined with USDA’s final and proposed rules will help return control of school food programs to local leaders while also combating food waste that occurs in the cafeteria so more kids eat more nutritious foods.
“I hope my colleagues will join me in ensuring that schools and our local communities are given the resources and flexibility they need so that every student has access to quality, nutritious, and affordable school lunches, Hartzler concluded.