Hoeven Touts Permanent Flexibility in School Lunch Program at Century Elementary

USDA Provided Flexibility in Response to Hoeven-Authored Legislation

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today joined students, school officials and school nutritionists for lunch at Century Elementary to discuss new permanent changes to the school lunch program that provide schools with greater flexibility to meet students’ individual needs. In response to legislation authored by Senator Hoeven, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently agreed to make permanent modifications to strict rules for serving grains, starches and proteins in school meals.

“A one-size-fits-all standard for school lunches left students feeling hungry and our schools struggling to meet unnecessarily strict new meal requirements,” said Hoeven. “North Dakota students spoke up and made it clear that the program wasn’t working. Together we were able to get the USDA to agree to provide permanent flexibility in the school lunch program to make it work for our students, for our school nutritionists and for our school districts.”

Hoeven sponsored the Sensible School Lunch Act, which provides school districts with greater flexibility to meet the nutritional needs of all students, after hearing from North Dakota students who were left feeling hungry due to new, strict school nutrition standards enacted at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. The rule attempted to curb obesity by strictly limiting calories, protein and grains for all students without any flexibility to meet the needs of athletes or others whose dietary needs do not fit the guidelines.

In December 2012, USDA made temporary changes to the School Lunch Program in response to a letter led by Hoeven and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas and signed by other senators. In response to the senators’ request, the USDA temporarily lifted its strict limit on grains and starches as well as protein to give schools more flexibility. The upper cap on total calories remains in place. However, the modification was provided only through the 2013-2014 school year.

Hoeven and Pryor then wrote bipartisan legislation to make these changes permanent. The senators’ legislation, the Sensible School Lunch Act, has broad, bipartisan support and the backing of the national School Nutrition Association. In response to their legislation, the USDA made the changes permanent administratively on January 3, 2014. The legislation was on track to pass this month prior to the USDA’s agreement to permanently modify the rule.