Lester: Trump's relaxed school lunch rules welcomed -- for now

  • Third-graders at Spencer Loomis Elementary in Hawthorn Woods select from a "garden bar." The Trump administration has relaxed school nutrition guidelines.

      Third-graders at Spencer Loomis Elementary in Hawthorn Woods select from a "garden bar." The Trump administration has relaxed school nutrition guidelines. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • David McSweeney

    David McSweeney

  • Then-Gov. Pat Quinn delivers a budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly while wearing his go-to tie.

    Then-Gov. Pat Quinn delivers a budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly while wearing his go-to tie. Associated Press/2009

 
 
Updated 5/8/2017 6:14 AM

In North Barrington Elementary School, so many cartons of unopened fat-free milk are left over each week that officials have taken to giving them to the Cuba Township Food Pantry.

"There's a lot of wasted food" by the 120 students who eat hot lunches, says Principal Austin Johnson, who spends time in the lunchroom every day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Kids may take a few bites of something healthy, but a lot of the times, they'll throw it out."

This exception is when "kid favorites" like pizza and cheese-filled breadsticks are on the menu.

Johnson says the school is taking a "wait and see approach" on how the Trump administration's move to roll back some of former first lady Michelle Obama's healthy lunch initiatives will fly. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act called for more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk products and less sodium and fat.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced new rules last week, saying "if kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition."

Revised guidelines will allow schools to serve flavored 1 percent low-fat milk and relax low-sodium and whole-grain requirements.

Cautiously optimistic

Some health advocates decry the move, but the Illinois School Nutrition Association offers initial praise, noting schools around the state, including Northwest Suburban High School District 214, St. Charles District 303 and Batavia District 101, opted out of the National School Lunch Program because they found it both restrictive and expensive.

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"School districts have been impacted by regulations of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act," association President Tracy Suter said. "We've seen a decrease in participation and hope with the recent local flexibility, we will see some incremental changes."

Warehouse victory

Two suburban lawmakers have persuaded Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza to freeze lease payments for a controversial warehouse being used by the state.

Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills and state Sen. Tom Cullerton, a Democrat from Villa Park, wrote to Mendoza after learning the state is leasing a former furniture warehouse in Springfield for $2.4 million over five years when it could have been purchased for around $750,000. McSweeney calls it "clearly wasteful spending" and "the last thing taxpayers' money should be used for."

Opening Day at Arlington

I attended Arlington Park's Opening Day Saturday -- as did a host of local officials including former Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Senate President John Cullerton, and others. Best bet of the day my group made was on a winning horse in the fourth race called My Darling Sofia.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Chairman Dick Duchossois' wife Judy, however, stole the show in a beautiful red lace dress, red hat and gold gladiator heels.

Arlington Park Chairman Dick Duchossois is also the largest shareholder of Churchill Downs. He attended the Kentucky Derby Saturday.
  Arlington Park Chairman Dick Duchossois is also the largest shareholder of Churchill Downs. He attended the Kentucky Derby Saturday. - Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer
McConnell's table

Meanwhile, Dick Duchossois tells me he spent Saturday at the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, where he was seated at a table with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Duchossois is Churchill Downs' single-largest shareholder.

Duchossois said he "didn't do anything special" to get the seat, just "spent a lot of money" in McConnell's home state.

Church seeks to raze school

I'm told First Congregational Church of Huntley wants to raze a former school on the 11600 block of Main Street that was built in 1875 and turned into apartments in the 1950s.

The building has not been deemed a historic landmark, but residents have spoken out against demolishing it.

The Huntley village board is scheduled to hear arguments for granting a demolition permit at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Tom Cullerton
Tom Cullerton
Will Quinn wear the tie?

A portrait of former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, a Hinsdale native, will be unveiled at 1:30 p.m. today at the state Capitol in Springfield. Arlington Heights-based portrait artist William Chambers did the rendering (he's also completed portraits of former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar, film director Steven Spielberg and President Bill Clinton).

It's the first portrait in the Capitol's hall of governors not paid for by taxpayers. Private donors are covering costs. There's much speculation whether Quinn is pictured wearing his go-to purple and navy striped tie, a constant presence during his time in office.

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