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Congressman Calls Federal School 'Bake Sale' Rules 'Abuse of Government Power'

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U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, has taken aim at provisions in the new "Smart Snacks in Schools" competitive food regulations that set limits on the sale of foods that don't comply with nutrition rules in school fundraisers.

"The Washington regulators, many of whom have their kids go to private schools that are not covered by the new rules, say kale chips and quinoa are to replace snow cones and Valentine candy. Isn't that lovely?" Poe said in a floor speech yesterday.

The first-of-their-kind rules, which took effect July 1, set nutrition standards for all foods schools participating in federal meal programs offer throughout the school day, such as those sold in vending machines, in school stores, and at student fundraisers (what Poe is referring to when he says bake sales). The rules set limits on sodium, fat, and calories. (You can test you snacks smarts here with our fun game.)

The Smart Snacks rules include a provision that allows states to exempt a certain number of fundraisers from the nutrition standards each year. If states don't vote on an exemption number, no fundraisers will be exempt. As I've noted previously, some states have set high numbers of exempted fundraisers—Georgia and Tennessee set it at 30.

In addition to his floor speech, Poe filed H.R.5417 with the tile "To prohibit certain nutrition rules with respect to foods sold at schools as a fundraiser." At this point, the online version of the bill at Congress.gov contains no text, but Poe said in a news release the bill would prevent federal funds from being used to enforce the fundraising provision.

"Local parents and educators should control bake sales, not the federal government," Poe said in his floor speech. "Today, I am introducing legislation to keep the feds from interfering with bake sales by local schools.  What is sold in bake sales to help school kids in Texas or any other place across America is frankly none of the business of the federal government food police."

Following concern and misunderstandings about the fundraising rules, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a memo to nutrition directors in August, clarifying the rules and reminding them of the abilitiy to set state exemptions. "We recognize that fundraisers play a vital role in providing additional sources of income to school districts to support extracurricular activities, such as sports, drama and music, that contribute to students' education, physical health and overall well-being," the memo said.

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