No Hungry Kids Act Repeals Nutrition Standards, Encourages Bad Financial Decisions

Fried Zucchini

Rep. Steve King of Iowa and Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas are sponsoring the “No Hungry Kids Act” (H.R. 6418). Much of the hullabaloo surrounding this bill centers on the calorie limits in school lunches. But is that all this bill addresses? Not even close.

The summary of the No Hungry Kids Act states:

To repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in the national school lunch and school breakfast programs, and for other purposes.

That’s pretty vague, but summaries are never detailed. So what’s really in this bill?

This is a short bill with only three sections. The first section says simply, “This Act may be cited as the ‘No Hungry Kids Act’.

Repealing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act

The second section is titled “Repeal of Rule” and reads

The rule prescribed by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture relating to nutrition standards in the national school lunch and school breakfast programs published on January 26, 2012 (77 Fed. Reg. 4088 et seq.) and revising parts 210 and 220 of title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, shall have no force or effect.

If you’re only reading press releases, you might think that this is solely repealing a rule about the calorie counts in school lunches. But wait, 77 Fed. Reg. 4088 is 81 pages long and contains all the nutrition guidelines in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, including, but not at all limited to, the calorie caps. The No Hungry Kids Act would do away with all the nutrition improvements – the requirements to serve vegetables other than potatoes, to lower salt and fat, to serve a fruit and a vegetable with every meal, and more.

Rejecting Fiscal Responsibility

77 Fed. Reg. 4088 also contains a requirement that a la carte foods – those foods that kids can buy to supplement their meals, like ice cream, vending machine candy, and fast food sold on school campuses – must produce a revenue stream relative to their costs at least as high as the revenue streams for school lunches relative to their costs. This regulation encourages schools to examine contracts with vending machine companies and fast food contractors to determine if there is an actual profit to be made.

I searched the web for a study on the profitability of a la carte items in schools. I didn’t find any hard numbers. What I did find is that schools have few requirements on record-keeping. Many schools rely on oral agreements with contractors. There’s information on revenues for a la carte items, but revenues are not profits. The cost of providing a la carte items must be subtracted from revenues to determine profit.

That requirement by itself makes 77 Fed. Reg. 4088 a worthwhile piece of regulation for a fiscal conservative to champion.

You Can’t Tell Me What to Feed My Kids

The third section adds a bit to the National School Lunch Act. Currently, the NSLA says, in part, that “lunches served by schools participating in the school lunch program under this chapter shall meet minimum nutritional requirements…, except that the minimum nutritional requirements – shall not be construed to prohibit the substitution of foods to accommodate the medical or other special dietary needs of individual students…”

Sounds reasonable, right? It covers kids with medical, religious, ethical, or other special dietary needs. The No Hungry Kids Act would amend that to include at the end, “to establish a calorie maximum for individual school lunches, or to prohibit a child from eating a lunch provided by the child’s parent or legal guardian.”

First of all, the National School Lunch Program only covers school lunches, not homemade lunches. There are no minimum requirements for what parents can send with their kids.

Second, the prohibition against establishing a calorie maximum is redundant, since the second section of the No Hungry Kids Act already repealed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act with its offending nutrients.

The full text of the No Hungry Kids Act is on the next page. It’s very short.

Fried zucchini photo via Shutterstock

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