Hoeven, King Introduce Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act

Bill Endorsed by School Nutrition and National School Boards Associations

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Angus King (I-Maine) today introduced the bipartisan Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act in the Senate (S.1146). The Healthy School Meals Act would provide permanent flexibility for schools to comply with the USDA’s sodium and whole grain requirements under the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs. The legislation does not change any other current requirements for calories, fruits or vegetables.

“We’re working with school nutrition professionals from across the country on the Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act to ensure that our schools have local flexibility in meeting sodium and whole grain requirements, while maintaining healthy nutritional standards,” said Hoeven. “We want to make sure that our schools can serve healthy and nutritious meals that our students like, while also making their budgets. This legislation is all about providing both good nutrition and flexibility.”

“Healthy, wholesome school meals are an essential aspect of the school day. Children learn best when they are well-fed and that increases their likelihood of success in the future,” said Senator King. “It’s no secret that Maine schools, like many around the country, are operating under tighter budgets. And to their credit, they have done an amazing job of being creative and stretching limited resources to provide quality meals to children. The Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act will help those dollars go even further by giving schools the flexibility to provide their students with nutritious meals.”

The Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act is endorsed by national school organizations including the School Nutrition Association (SNA) and the National School Boards Association.

“School nutrition professionals are committed to serving students nutritious, appealing meals and encouraging them to make healthy choices,” said School Nutrition Association CEO Patricia Montague, CAE. “Most of the new school meal regulations have supported these efforts, but some of the most restrictive mandates have caused frustrated students to swap school lunch for unhealthy alternatives, defeating the goal of the standards and reducing revenue for menu improvements. The Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act ensures schools will continue to serve nutritious meals that meet current sodium limits and offer students a wide variety of whole grains. Senators Hoeven and King should be commended for working to ensure schools have the ability to prepare healthy meals that appeal to all our students.”

The Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act

  • Whole Grains: Since July of 2012, at least half of all grains offered with school meals have been whole-grain rich. In July 2014, USDA required that 100 percent of all grains be whole-grain rich. The Healthy School Meals Flexibility Act restores the requirement back to 50 percent of total grains to ensure continued access to a wide variety of grain products. This will enable schools to serve items like biscuits, tortillas and pasta that students will eat. In December, Hoeven worked to include a provision in the Agriculture Appropriations bill that allows schools that establish a hardship from the 100 percent whole grain food requirement to serve meals with 50 percent whole grain rich foods. This legislation would provide permanent flexibility for all schools.
  • Sodium: Prevents the Department of Agriculture from requiring further sodium reductions in school meals below the current Target 1 level, which became effective in July 2014. If additional sodium reductions are implemented, schools would have a difficult time meeting targets when serving healthy foods with naturally occurring sodium, including milk, cheese and meat. For example, schools would be unable to serve healthy choices like low-fat, whole grain cheese pizza, many Asian dishes and deli sandwiches.