U.S. Senator John Boozman and U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx have penned a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to extend the comment period for the recently proposed changes to the school nutrition standards.
The lawmakers are asking the current comment period be extended from 60 days to 90 days due to the extensive impact the proposed changes will have on nutrition programs. The comment period is currently set to end on April 10.
“The proposed revisions to meal patterns are complex and far-reaching, including the addition of new sugar standards, reduced sodium limits, and modified milk and whole grain standards,” the letter’s authors write. “While dictating policy on paper is easy, school districts will need adequate time to assess the extensive practical implications of these revisions. For this reason, schools and stakeholders should be afforded additional time to review and comment on the proposed rule.”
The USDA published its proposed changes last month, which would place further restrictions on things like sodium and whole grains in school meals. They also include added sugar limits for the first time.
Many K-12 operators are worried about the new changes and say that it is almost impossible to implement the current nutrition standards due to rising costs and supply chain disruptions.
According to the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) 2023 School Nutrition Trends Report, a majority of K-12 operators (88.8%) said that suppliers not carrying sufficient menu items to meet nutrition standards was a moderate or significant challenge this school year.
USDA representatives were also barraged with criticisms and questions about the proposed changes from operators at the SNA’s Legislative Action Conference earlier this month.