Topeka U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, on Tuesday blamed the Obama administration for "leaving kids hungry" with new school lunch standards. But the federal government says the standards are producing healthier meals.
The standards, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, are designed to "raise a healthier generation of children," according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
"That's really what this is all about," Mrs. Obama said earlier this month in a school message to students. "It's about ensuring that all of you have everything you need to learn and grow and succeed in school and in life," she said.
According to the USDA, the changes that took effect this school year ensure students are offered both fruits and vegetables each school day; increase whole grain foods; offer only fat-free or low-fat milk; limit calories based on the age of children being served; and increase focus on reducing saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.
Huelskamp, however, said when traveling through his district he has heard complaints from many Kansas parents about the school lunches.
“Parents who purchase school lunches for their children or taxpayers who support free- and reduced- lunch programs have the expectation that what kids eat are meals – not mere snacks," he said.
On the USDA website, the agency gives examples of the changes made under the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. For example, under the old system, an elementary school lunch would have had cheese pizza, canned pineapple, tater tots with ketchup and low-fat chocolate milk. Under the new system, the lunch would include whole wheat cheese pizza, baked sweet potato fries, grape tomatoes, applesauce, low-fat milk and low-fat ranch dip.
The new requirements raised standards for the first time in 15 years and will affect nearly 32 million students who participate in school meal programs, the USDA said.