A new bipartisan proposal from the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee would introduce more flexible guidelines for the nation’s public schools, some of which have struggled with requirements proposed in the school lunch reforms set forth by First Lady Michelle Obama.
The agreement, which would also postpone a deadline for schools to reduce sodium levels, is seen as a potential truce between Obama and nutrition officials, who have publically battled for several years over the need to improve the state of school lunch.
Thanks to the first lady’s efforts, school lunches have indeed gotten significantly healthier since 2012, and those reforms have gained the support of military veterans, who have compared obesity to an issue of national security. Some school administrators, however, have bristled against Obama’s attempts to direct the way that their students are fed.
The new legislation from the Senate, meanwhile, would continue to improve school lunches while giving schools more leeway with details like whole grains — currently, schools are required to serve only whole grains, while the new agreement would scale the whole-grain requirement down to 80 percent of grains served during lunch. Officials have complained that students have rejected whole grain versions of tortillas, biscuits, and pasta, forcing schools to lose money.
Furthermore, the bill would delay regulations decreasing sodium in school lunches by two years, and require the government to look for ways to get students to stop throwing away fruits and vegetables, which they are required to take during lunch.
The proposed legislation will go to a vote on Wednesday, January 20.