Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gop Lawmakers Aim to Beef Up School Lunches, Toss Obesity Rules

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Gop Lawmakers Aim to Beef Up School Lunches, Toss Obesity Rules

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers and government officials are again engaged in a food fight, this time with Republican lawmakers hungry to lift new federal limits on the calories of school lunches served to 32 million students.

The lawmakers have introduced legislation targeting the "nutrition nannies" at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, contending that their "calorie rationing'" is leaving students hungry.

The anti-obesity rules championed by first lady Michelle Obama require schools in the federally subsidized lunch program to serve more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free and low-fat milk. They also limit calories -- 850 for lunches served to high school students.

The latest fight comes a year after lawmakers debated whether pizza should be considered a vegetable. Congress declared that two tablespoons of tomato paste slathered on pizza could continue to be classified as a full vegetable serving in the federal school lunch program.

Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., sponsors of the "No Hungry Kids Act," portray the standards -- which grew out of legislation passed in 2010, in the closing days of the Democratic- controlled Congress -- as another symbol of Washington's regulatory excess.

Mr. Huelskamp has called attention to videos produced by high school students in his state -- one called "We Are Hungry," showing volleyball players collapsing on the court from hunger, and another called "The HUNGER Games -- A Parody of the 2012 School Lunch Program," featuring one student complaining: "Really? One pig in a blanket."

"The goal of the school lunch program is supposed to be feeding children, not filling the trash cans with uneaten food," Mr. Huelskamp said.

The critics contend that the calorie limits are driving hungry kids to fill up on junk food. The two congressional offices set up a Facebook page -- Nutrition Nannies -- that has generated debate on the rules.

Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, defended the rules. She pointed out that Mr. King is locked in a tough race against Democrat Christie Vilsack, wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. …

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