Advocates of school nutrition standards use high-school chefs’ competition to show that food can still taste good

The higher school-food standards required by the Child Nutrition Act expire this year, and Republicans are continuing their efforts to roll back some of them. Democrats and advocates of the standards used a student cooking event on Capitol Hill to generate support for the standards, apparently to counter arguments of some school nutrition directors that some of the healthier options are more difficult to prepare and serve.

In the final competition, the top nine high-school teams served their winning dishes to lawmakers. The dishes had to follow their cafeterias’ budgets and the national standards: To win, students had to include products rich in whole grains, low in sodium and a half-cup of fruits and vegetables, Whitney Forman-Cook reports for Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. She doesn’t list any of the dishes, but they’re listed with the winners on the “Cooking Up Change” website of the Healthy Schools Campaign.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., hosted the event. She said that she and Senate Agriculture Committee Chariman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who has vowed to roll back some of the standards, have been discussing the issue, and she would like to pass a bipartisan bill by Sept. 30, when the current law’s authority ends. One standard Stabenow doesn’t want to compromise on is the requirement for a half-cup of fruit and vegetables; Michigan is a big fruit and vegetable state.

Stabenow said the Department of Agriculture “is very willing to work with schools where there are issues” in meeting nutrition requirements. (Read more)

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