Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Congress relaxes whole grain standards for schools

Published:Thursday | December 11, 2014 | 12:00 AM
First lady Michelle Obama visits the cafeteria as she had lunch with school children at Parklawn elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, recently.


Congress is taking some whole grains off the school lunch line.

A massive year-end spending bill released this week doesn't allow schools to opt out of healthier school-meal standards championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, as House Republicans had sought. But it would ease standards that require more whole grains in school foods.

The bill also would put off rules to lower sodium in school meals. Those rules were supposed kick in by 2017.


Some school nutrition directors have lobbied for a break from the standards, which have been phased in since 2012, saying the rules have proven to be costly and restrictive. Some kids don't like the meals, either. House Republicans have said the rules are an overreach, and have fought to ease them.

As the debate escalated this summer, Michelle Obama said she would fight "to the bitter end" to make sure kids have good nutrition in schools. The White House did not have an immediate comment on the language in the spending bill.

Many schools have complained that the wholegrain standards are a challenge, especially when preparing popular pastas, biscuits and tortillas. Food-service companies don't have as many options in the wholewheat varieties, and preparation can be more difficult, especially with some wholewheat pastas that can be mushy and hard to cook.