PLATTSBURGH — Congressional challenger Matt Doheny says his opponent did not do his homework on school lunches.
Doheny was critical of incumbent Bill Owens’s support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which allowed for major changes in nutrition standards for all school foods.
A Republican from Watertown, Doheny said the new standard of a maximum of 850 calories for high school student lunches was not realistic, especially for those participating in interscholastic athletics.
The calorie cap for elementary-school students is 650 calories per lunch; for middle schoolers, 700.
“I’ve heard from several parents and school officials about this ‘nanny state’ approach to nutrition,” Doheny said.
“While they share lawmakers’ concerns about children eating healthy, they’re angered that Congress has limited their ability to choose the foods and the appropriate portion size that will keep kids powered for learning.”
MINIMUM WAS 825
A meal recently served at a North Country high school, as observed by the Press-Republican, featured a dinner roll, 2 ounces of tuna fish, three baby carrots, an 8-ounce container of chocolate milk and a chocolate chip cookie, for a total of about 400 calories.
Before the change, the minimum number of calories for high schoolers was 825 per lunch. Now, maximum numbers have been set for all grade levels.
Doheny said more and more students are bringing bag lunches, and the number of school lunches being purchased in the 21st Congressional District is down about 20 percent because of the changes.
A continued loss in lunch revenue could lead to layoffs in school cafeterias, he said.
“It’s becoming an economic issue for schools.”
Doheny said school districts should be able to make their own decisions regarding lunch items and portions.
“This is another example of Washington telling locals what to do. How about parents and people on the ground in their own districts make the decisions?”
The legislation that Owens voted for allowed the Secretary of Agriculture to set nutrition standards for school foods. Owens, a Democrat from Plattsburgh, said he voted in favor of authorizing the school-lunch program but had nothing to do with the changes.
“It’s incorrect to say that I supported regulations on school lunches,” he said.
“What I supported was a bill to reauthorize the school-lunch program. But I agree we need to take another look at the rule and make sure it offers school districts the flexibility to provide a meal that is both healthy and adequate for active kids, especially those who may have work or sports after school.”
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