On May 29, 2014, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The bill provides $20.5 billion in mandatory funding for child nutrition programs; however, it also establishes a process for schools to opt out of the nutrition regulations passed in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established new requirements for the country’s free or reduced-price lunch program and is the hallmark of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign against childhood obesity. The new standards included a reduction in sodium and the requirement for each student to choose a fruit and vegetable to get the free meal. After the House Appropriations Committee initially had released the proposed bill, the First Lady warned, “Now is not the time to roll back everything that we have worked for. Our kids deserve so much better than that.”
Nonetheless, according to the bill report, “Schools from across the Nation have expressed concern with increased food costs and plate waste coupled with decreased participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), all of which is resulting in at least half of all school food authorities to experience a decline in revenue…. Therefore, the Committee includes bill language that provides schools with flexibility by allowing schools experiencing a financial loss for at least a six-month period to seek a waiver from compliance with the final regulations.”
The bill language does not provide for a change in reimbursement rates and applies only to the 2014–15 school year.