Wisconsin News

U.S. House proposes bill to weaken school lunch regulations

Local school districts oppose the bill

U.S. House proposes bill to weaken school lunch regulations

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT) - A new house bill that aims to weaken school nutrition regulations is causing some concern among local school districts.

After four years of hard work and dedication, school districts across the country are now providing students with healthier options for breakfast and lunch; however, some schools aren't seeing the benefits.

To help struggling schools, U.S. House Republicans have proposed a bill that would weaken school regulations. The house bill is supposed to help school districts who have been losing money ever since the new regulations took place in 2010. It would allow them to take a break from the healthier regulations for a year.

However, two school nutrition supervisors in our area say that is only going to do more harm, than good.

"In the beginning, it was hard to get used to the change," said Joni Ralph, the supervisor of school nutrition programs for the La Crosse School District.

"The first year was difficult," said Michael Gasper, supervisor of school nutrition for the Holmen School District.

For the past four years, school nutrition supervisors have been working hard to follow strict regulations when it comes to school lunches.

"The grain requirement now is that it needs to be whole grain, increased amounts of fruits and vegetables," said Ralph.

It's been a work in progress ever since first lady Michelle Obama decided to overhaul school lunches back in 2010. Both supervisors admit the transition wasn't an easy one.

"The first year of implementation of the Healthy Hunger Free Kid Act, we saw our highest drop in participation, so in that year it was about an 8 percent drop," said Ralph.

"Participation did suffer some that year," said Gaspers.

But the more they worked at it, the better it got.

"Last year we actually experienced an increase in participation," said Gaspers.

"What we've noticed is that it leveled off a little bit more, so that tells us the people are getting used to it," said Ralph.

Although both supervisors experienced ups and downs with the changes, they say it's well worth the extra effort. That is why they are against the U.S. House bill that would allow school districts to take a yearlong break from the requirements.

"It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, they are only going to be further behind the following year," said Gaspers.

"I do understand the realities of it with budget, it becomes very hard, yet at the same time there are school districts out there who are making headway and making it work," said Ralph.

The School Nutrition Association that originally backed the healthier changes is reconsidering its position. It supports healthier options, but it understands school districts are losing money because students aren't buying the lunches.

The full house is expected to vote sometime after their July Fourth break, but as of Monday, nothing is set on their calendar.

The White House has threatened to veto the House bill.

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