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Podesta: Obama might veto school lunch waiver

By A. G. Kawamura on June 10, 2014
© Agri-Pulse

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2014 - President Obama would consider vetoing an Agriculture Appropriations bill should the legislation include House GOP-proposed school lunch nutrition waivers, White House senior counselor John Podesta said on Monday. 

House Republicans “screwed up their courage and determined that poor kids are eating too much during the summer, and eating too well (during the rest of the year),” Podesta said of the waiver proposal at the annual gathering of the Christian anti-hunger group Bread for the World in Washington, D.C. 

“The president will consider a veto if [appropriations legislation with the waiver] passes both chambers,” Podesta said. 

An agriculture spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee but set to considered by the full House on Wednesday would grant one-year waivers to school nutrition programs operating at a six-month financial loss after the implementation of new school lunch guidelines in fall 2012. The Senate Appropriations Committee legislation does not include similar language, though it would provide increased flexibility for schools struggling to serve whole grain-rich foods.

The new rules require schools to serve more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and to cut down on sugar, sodium and fat. 

Podesta is just the latest White House official to wade into the school nutrition battle. First Lady Michelle Obama made headlines last month when she called the waiver plan “unacceptable” at a meeting with nutrition allies. 

“The last thing we can afford to so right now is play politics with our kids health,” Mrs. Obama said at the meeting. 

Waiver proponents, including the School Nutrition Association, which represents 55,000 school nutrition professionals, say they just want increased flexibility from the school nutrition standards, overseen by USDA. SNA says it supports many of the school lunch requirements, which were changed in 2010 under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and implemented in 2012. 

“Our request for flexibility under the new standards does not come from industry or politics; it comes from thousands of school cafeteria professionals who have shown how these overly prescriptive regulations are hindering their effort to get students to eat healthy school meals,” SNA President Leah Schmidt said last month on a media call. 

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