The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service issued a proposed rule Monday to codify parts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by Mrs. Obama.
The regulation would punish schools and state departments with fines for “egregious or persistent disregard” for the lunch rules that imposed sodium and calorie limits and banned white grains.
A West Virginia preschool teacher was threatened with fines for violating the rules by rewarding her students with candy for good behavior in June 2015. The teacher ultimately did not have to pay, but the school had to develop a “corrective action plan” with training on the policies.
The government now seeks to make fines enforceable by regulation. Section 303 of the law requires that the federal government “establish criteria for the imposition of fines” for all the Department of Agriculture’s child food programs.
The government insisted that fines would be limited only to schools, school food authorities, and state agencies that have “failed to correct severe mismanagement of any program, disregarded a requirement of which it has been informed, or failed to correct repeated violations of program requirements.”
The Food and Nutrition Service is targeting schools that refuse to comply with Mrs. Obama’s lunch rules and said monetary penalties are a “useful tool” to get noncompliant cafeterias in line.
The fines would be the latest consequence of the healthy eating law that Mrs. Obama lobbied for in 2010. More than 1.4 million students have left the lunch line since the rules went into effect, as students have complained of small portions and unappetizing fare. The standards have been blamed for cafeteria workers losing their jobs, and some kids have even resorted to creating black markets for salt to add flavor.
Calling the fines an “assessment” against a school, the agency said the fines would amount to 1 percent of the total amount the school was reimbursed for lunches for the first fine. A second fine would equal up to 5 percent of the total meal reimbursements, and 10 percent for a third or subsequent fine.
The fines could be hefty if an entire state agency were flagged for persistent violations. For instance, Alabama received $210,937,195 in cash payments through the school lunch program in 2015. One percent would total $2.1 million. A 10 percent fine would cost $21 million.
The Food and Nutrition Service did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed rule, or how much the estimated fines would total.
The agency said in the proposed regulation that the fines are “intended to improve the integrity.”
Guess it’s not only the adults who are looking forward to the 2016 election in November! After Michelle’s Hunger-Free Kids Act is gone, it looks like more kids maybe able to finally enjoy school lunches again. Improving integrity? Really? Let’s start by improving integrity by getting rid of this ridiculous program and electing a new president! Then, let’s work on abolishing the Department of Education and creating more schools of choice!