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Washington Decision Could Affect Quality Of DFW School Lunches

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A food fight in Washington over school lunch legislation has trickled down to Dallas/Fort Worth Area ISDs, where parents are frustrated that lawmakers may pick cost over nutrition.

“Our three children are allowed to buy their lunch once a week, it’s considered a treat,” said Anita Siegers, mother and part-owner of the Highlands Café in Dallas. “Just because the nutritional value is not stellar.”

At the Highlands Café, Siegers said she strives to serve healthy options and wishes the same where true where her three children attend school.

The Obama Administration released new guidelines for school lunch programs in January. But now, House Republicans say the cost of implanting the new rules far outweighs the calorie-mindful programs.

The Agriculture Department estimated the healthier school lunch would cost 14 cents more per meal. Conservatives say that cost would balloon to more than $7 billion over five years and that it is a luxury the nation cannot afford.

“Yes, it’s a political football,” Siegers said. “Eating nutritiously is expensive. That’s the bottom line.”

Dallas ISD was awarded a recognition recently from the Obama Administration for nutritional excellence in its schools.

“We’re currently already meeting the new healthier school criteria,” said Dora Rivas, DISD’s Executive Food Services Director. “More 80-percent of their kids are on the free or reduced school meal program.”

With a picture of First Lady Michelle Obama – who has become the administration’s mascot for healthy lifestyles – hanging in her office, Rivas said the district is mindful of the national discussions and has begun working with vendors to find ways to avoid sacrificing nutrition for affordability.

“We are getting healthier, uh, products and the vendors are working toward making them more cost effective,” Rivas said.

Rivas won’t weigh in on the political debate but says the government is on the right nutritional road. Parents say the real challenge is getting the kids on board.

“The habits they create now will theoretically be the habits they live with for their life,” Siegers said.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the bill Tuesday night, which cuts billions from the USDA and FDA budgets. It also calls into question a government proposal to curb the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

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