Friday, September 17, 2021

Hungry students want to change food truck law


A few students at Wheaton High School in Silver Spring, Md., have petitioned the Montgomery County government to change the regulations for food trucks so they can have more flexibility in deciding what to eat at lunch, the Washington Post reports.

Victor Barkley, a rising senior, and other hungry students—in an “innovation” class that gave students an opportunity to work with county government officials—want to change the rule that prohibits food trucks from operating near schools in the county unless they have permission from the principal for a special event. Although their first proposal won’t accomplish that, they hope it will pave the way for additional changes down the road.

Their first proposal, introduced on June 16, deals with the current food truck regulation that restricts vendors to operating only from 9 AM to dusk. In winter that can totally eliminate dinner. The proposed changes would extend operating hours substantially—from 5 AM to 10 PM.

That won’t make it possible for food trucks to operate near a school, but, Mr Barkley hopes, it will make it easier for food trucks to go into business in the Washington suburbs and might pave the way for future changes to the regulations, allowing food trucks to operate near schools during normal business hours.

In other food-related news last week, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack defended the US Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act nutrition standards before the House Education and the Workforce Committee. He spoke primarily about the changes made to the kinds of food schools are required to serve: healthy choices rather than junk food.

These kinds of changes ensure that the Child Nutrition Programs are as effective as they can be in promoting healthy diets—a common-sense prevention approach to slow the growth of, and ultimately reverse, increases in devastating health problems. This will build a healthier future for our children and our Nation. We are pursuing this strategy with increased flexibility and technical support, to respond to the needs of those working to implement better programs in schools and communities. Now, as success spreads across the country and we are beginning to see the positive impacts of these improvements, is not the time to turn back the clock or lower the bar. We owe it to our children to continue to build on the gains we have made until every child, family, and community can benefit.

In addition to improved meal standards, the HHFKA also established basic nutrition standards for foods sold in school, thus ensuring that all 53 million students attending schools that participate in the National School Lunch Program have a healthier school environment—not only in the lunch line, but also vending machines and school stores. Schools continue to have a wide range of options for what they offer under these “Smart Snacks” standards.

He also discussed how the USDA is focusing on improper payments and other waste in the school meals system. The program serves more than 30 million schoolchildren every school day.

The School Nutrition Association and Republicans in the US House of Representatives have criticized the rules. But, on the other side of the debate, the American Heart Association has launched a petition to urge Congress to keep the rules intact.

“We must ensure our children are learning the healthy habits that will last them a lifetime,” the association writes on the petition. “Please take action today and urge your lawmakers to support strong school nutrition standards.”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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