Bill proposes scaling back school lunch restrictions

Bill proposes scaling back school lunch restrictions

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - School lunches are healthier than they used to be thanks to National School Lunch Program guidelines, but Horry County Schools has also seen fewer students buying lunch, more food waste and higher overall food cost.

A Senate Agriculture committee approved a bill Wednesday that was an agreement between the USDA, the White House and the School Nutrition Association. The bill aims to ease some of the tight restrictions on school lunches.

A release on the School Nutrition Association's website said the School Nutrition Association pushed for the changes due to the difficulties they've created for food service directors.

The agreement will allow whole grains to be 80 percent of the grains served to students.

It also delays the next target level for sodium, in order to have more time for research on the benefits of doing that.

Laura Farmer, the director of food services for Horry County Schools, said she would like to see the sodium level capped off at where it is now.

"Within the next 10 years, it's going to be an equivalent of about a quarter teaspoon of sodium that we can use in our food. The food would just have no taste," Farmer said.

She said she thinks 50/50 whole grains and refined grains would also be reasonable.

An issue Farmer would like to see more discussion about is the requirement for every child to have a fruit or vegetable on their tray, which contributes to food waste.

"Of course they're not going to eat it if they don't like it, so it's going to go in the trash," she said.

Farmer said school lunch participation decreased 11 percent during the school year that the changes were first implemented. She said it has leveled off since then, so the hope is younger students will grow up with the healthier food, which will bring the participation back up to where it was as those students progress through the grade levels.

Horry County Food Services representatives will go to Washington D.C. in March to talk to Congress about the restrictions.

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