WASHINGTON, D.C. – The School Nutrition Association is claiming the new school lunch and snack regulations are causing administrative costs to explode and wants Congress to take action.

“The cost of meeting new federal nutrition standards for school meals will triple in Fiscal Year 2015,” according to the SNA.

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“The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that the new school meal standards will force local school districts and states to absorb $1.22 billion in new food, labor and administrative costs in Fiscal Year 2015 alone, up from $362 million in additional costs in FY 2014,” the association notes, adding its own emphasis.

The spike in costs are related to the “healthy” National School Lunch Program overhaul championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“School nutrition professionals have led the way in promoting improved diets for students and are committed to serving healthy meals,” says SNA CEO Patricia Montague.

“Despite all of these efforts, fewer students are eating school meals, and the escalating costs of meeting overly prescriptive regulations are putting school meal programs in financial jeopardy.”

“USDA or Congress must act to provide greater flexibility under the rules before school meal programs become a financial liability for the school districts they serve,” the CEO says in the press release.

According to FarmFutures.com, “Food and labor costs are equivalent to about 10 cents for reimbursable school lunch and 27 cents for breakfast, according to the SNA, but school meal programs received only six additional cents for each reimbursable lunch and no additional funds for breakfast.”

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The SNA is requesting “common sense flexibility,” including:

* Maintain the 2012 requirement that half of grains offered be whole grain rich, instead of requiring that all grains be whole grain rich.

* Maintain Target 1 sodium levels, and suspend further reductions until scientific research supports them.

* To avoid food waste, offer, but do not require students to take a fruit or vegetable.

* Allow healthy items permitted on the meal line to be sold a la carte as well.

Farm Futures notes the USDA has dismissed any notion that there are problems with the program.

“USDA, meanwhile, dismissed claims that school lunch revenue is falling,” the site reports.

The additional cost is the equivalent of the average pay of about 23,000 high school teachers.