Enacted in 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) set rigid nutrition standards for schools and paved the way for the subsequent implementation of school meal rules that many in the industry argue have limited the flexibility of school foodservice providers, led to increased food waste in school cafeterias, and resulted in declining participation in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. USDA’s Final Rule: Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, for example, imposes stringent sodium limits and whole grain and dairy requirements. Recently, there have been increasing calls to scale back on these requirements. For example, this past Spring (and as previously covered on this blog), U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, sent a letter to the USDA urging regulatory relief from rigid school meal standards.
Last week, on July 6, 2017, USDA submitted an interim final rule on school nutrition flexibilities regarding milk, whole grains and sodium for review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The advancement of this rule follows on a May 2, 2017 proclamation by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue that the USDA would provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs in order to make food choices both healthful and appealing to student. Additional details on the rule will be made available pending clearance by OMB for its publication in the Federal Register.
The advancement of this interim final rule makes clear that USDA is serious about moving towards increased flexibility when it comes to school meal program nutrition requirements, with the complete rolling back of the previous administration’s school nutrition requirements a possibility.