Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem joined House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Representative Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) in requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the new school lunch standards that are being implemented for the first time this year.
Rep. Noem has been a strong voice in questioning the new school lunch standards, which place calorie-maximums on school meals for students. The Representatives are requesting that the GAO investigate the challenges in implementing the school lunch program, the costs associated with it and what the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is doing to assist schools in complying with the standards. The letter also requests that the GAO look into the impact the standards have on food waste.
This request is a follow-up to an October 18 letter sent by Representatives Noem, Kline and Roe to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting additional information on the program. Rep. Noem also sent a letter to Secretary Vilsack regarding the issue on September 13. No responses from the USDA have been received at this point. A GAO study will help determine the on-the-ground impacts of the new standards so Congress can determine the next steps on how to best address the challenges.
Full text of the letter below:
October 31, 2012
The Honorable Gene Dodaro
Comptroller General of the United States
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20548
Dear Mr. Dodaro:
In December 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed into law, enacting the most comprehensive changes to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in more than 15 years. Among the most significant change was a requirement that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) update nutrition standards for school meal programs. These new requirements, which recently went into effect, impose a calorie minimum and, for the first time, a calorie maximum for school lunches. The rules provide detailed guidance on the types and quantities of foods to be included in meals, such as a daily serving of fruit, a daily serving of vegetables, and weekly requirements as to the types of vegetables, meats, and whole grain-rich foods served to all students.
Since the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, state and local officials, parents, and students have raised concerns about a number of these changes, specifically the adequacy of the calorie maximum, the cost of the new requirements, and increased food waste in school cafeterias. Many schools are concerned the requirements limit their flexibility and make it more difficult to adapt their menus to meet the preferences and needs of their students and school communities.
In addition, new nutritional standards for the school breakfast program and competitive foods will take effect in the coming years, and school officials already are questioning the potential scope and consequences of these added changes.
In light of these concerns, we request GAO prepare a report that addresses the following questions:
- What challenges have school food service authorities faced in implementing the new school nutrition requirements? In particular, have local authorities had difficulty identifying and purchasing foods that are palatable to students and meet the new standards? Has student participation in school meal programs decreased because of the new school nutrition requirements? Have the school nutrition standards resulted in increased food waste?
- How have the changes in nutritional standards affected the costs of providing school lunches at the state and local levels? Please examine the potential increase in programmatic, administrative (time, budget, and staffing), and compliance costs.
- How has the mandatory price increase in paid meals affected the school lunch program?
- What steps has USDA taken to assist school food authorities in implementing the new requirements, and what additional assistance is needed?
We appreciate your assistance in this matter. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Mandy Schaumburg (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the committee at 202-225-6558.
Representative John Kline (R-MN)
Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD)
Representative David “Phil” Roe, M.D. (R-TN)