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Senator Collins scores key victory to keep healthy vegetables in school meal program

 School meals
In a major victory, the United States Senate tonight unanimously approved a bipartisan amendment, authored by Senator Susan Collins, to the Fiscal Year 2012 Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill that would protect the flexibility of schools to serve healthy vegetables in the National School lunch and breakfast programs.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed a rule that would limit servings of a certain category of vegetables that includes white potatoes, green peas, lima beans, and corn, to a total of one-cup per week in the National School Lunch Program.  The proposed rule would also ban this category of vegetables from the School Breakfast Program altogether.   

The amendment, coauthored by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), and cosponsored by several of her colleagues including Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), prevents USDA from moving forward with this arbitrary, maximum limitation, while keeping the current requirement that school meals be consistent with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“I am delighted that my colleagues in the Senate have accepted our amendment,” said Senator Collins.  “This means USDA cannot proceed with a rule that would impose unnecessary and expensive new requirements affecting the servings of healthy vegetables, such as white potatoes, green peas, corn, and lima beans.”

  Senator Collins recognizes the need to improve the nutritional standards in the school meals programs, and she supports USDA’s goal to increase the availability of all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in these programs and to ensure the foods served in our schools are delivered in a fashion that meets the nutritional needs of children. Her amendment would allow schools the flexibility to make reasonable and suitable substitutions among affordable fresh and nutritious food options.

“The USDA estimates that this rule could have cost as much as $6.8 billion over five years.  The lion’s share of these costs would be incurred by the state and local agencies.  The proposed rule would have also limited the flexibility that schools need to serve nutritious, affordable meals to their students,” Senator Collins continued.

(Click picture to watch video)

Click for video of Sen Susan Collins introducing her amendment in the US Senate