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House Democrats Urge Swift Adoption of School Meal Rules

By guest blogger Nirvi Shah:

With the battles over the debt ceiling and the Federal Aviation Administration over (for now), Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are reaffirming their support for the proposed standards for school breakfasts and lunches.

The proposed standards, which will be expensive to put into action and involve cutting sodium, trans fat and calories while boosting fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains, were attacked by some House Republicans in May as an example of government overreach.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is now sifting through thousands of comments on the proposed meal rules, and the agency isn't expected to finalize the standards until sometime next year.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Tuesday, the 36 representatives urged the USDA to issue its final regulations in time for school districts to put them all into place by the start of the 2012-13 school year. The effort was led by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.

An aide to Mr. Polis said the congressman wanted to be sure that USDA knew of strong support for the proposed standards, especially because of the criticism about the suggested rules.

"...We all know that while school meal quality has been steadily improving over the last decade there is still much work to do. Many schools are still not serving enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and are serving too much sodium, and unhealthy saturated, and trans fats," reads the letter. "The work to improve school meals is especially urgent given the high prevalence and enormous cost of obesity—$150 billion a year, half of which is paid through Medicaid and Medicare."

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