Congress could squash USDA's attempts to make school lunch hea - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Congress could squash USDA's attempts to make school lunch healthier

TYLER, TX (KLTV)- The United States Congress has released their final version of a spending bill-- and it could affect what your child eats for lunch.

The Obama Administration has tried to cut back on foods like french fries and pizzas, in an effort to make children healthier.

But, some Republicans in Congress want to keep these items on the menu.

They say if they're reduced it could push pizza makers and potato growers out of the school lunch business.

What is being dished out in public school cafeteria's across East Texas looks a lot like what was seen in Tyler today.

Items like "pizza cheese sticks" and "nachos grande" filling requirements for grains, protein and dairy. And of course every lunchroom is serving up fruits and vegetables.

"We're fed real good.. vegetables, fruits and a good portion meal," says one 8th grade student.

But, the USDA is proposing these lunches get healthier. They say they'd like to see a limit on starchy vegetables like corn and peas.

"If I want to do mashed potatoes one day, fries one day and corn one day.. Well, I'd have to choose now and that's the thing that might hurt," says Tyler ISD Food Services Director Victor Olivares.

Olivares says putting limits on how frequently certain vegetables could be served would limit menu variety.
But, if Congress's bill is passed, it would squash the USDA's attempts anyway.

The USDA also wants to count a half a cup of tomato paste as a serving of vegetables.
Congress wants that requirement to remain two tablespoons. That way a slice of cafeteria pizza could fulfill vegetable requirements. Pizza as a vegetable ...something not even the students can get behind.

"It's not a vegetable," Stewart Middle School student Juan Flores says. "But it's alright.. It's something we could keep," he says.

Nutritionists say it's about finding a happy medium.

"You can put the healthiest food out on the plate but if the child doesn't eat it what good have we done?" Olivares says.

The whole dispute is something students say should not be the government's concern.

"I think the families should teach them how to eat, not the government telling them how to eat" said another 8th grade student.

"We have to find foods that are healthy but compromise in the way children will eat it, and I think we'll be successful that way," says Olivares.

The bill would also require a more in-depth study on sodium reduction before making it a school lunch requirement. It would also require the USDA to define the term "whole grains" before they're allowed to regulate them in the lunch line.

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