More changes could be coming to school lunches

There is a food fight happening in our nation’s capital.

In an effort to fight childhood obesity, there has been push to get healthier foods on school lunch trays led by first lady Michelle Obama.

But some previously banned foods may be making a comeback.

School districts around the country have complained the Obama administration’s rules are too restrictive.

Federal standards put in place in 2012, required schools to serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. But a new bill, passed Wednesday by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, would offer districts some flexibility to the requirements for whole grains and delay a cut to sodium levels.

Right now, all grains served in school lunches have to be 100 percent whole grain, the new rules would reduce that to 80 percent.

“So basically what it means is the schools will be able to serve white enriched flour type items one time a week,” said Michael Gasper, nutrition services supervisor for the Holmen School District.

The bill would also slow down a requirement to reduce sodium levels and fund a study to measure the benefits of the reduction. But Gasper said the lower sodium levels could cause a significant change in the taste.

“If we’re offering food that really doesn’t taste like anything they’re probably not going to eat school lunch,” Gasper said.

Gundersen Health System Registered Dietitian Jessica Lind said these regulations were put in place to help fight against childhood obesity. She said having more nutritious foods available in school lunches helps kids create healthy eating habits for the rest of their lives.

“We find that a lot of foods that are less nutritious are often higher in fat, sugar, sodium and the like. So by restricting those things, we would make foods that are more nutritious the better option versus foods that are not,” Lind said.

Gasper said Holmen has offered 100 percent whole grain options for years and doesn’t expect anything to change if this bill becomes law.

School districts are required to follow government nutrition laws if they receive federal reimbursement to offer free and reduced meals to low income students.