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Officials have lunch with local students, want change in school lunch guidelines

By JOLEEN FERRIS

WESTMORELAND, N.Y. (WKTV) - Nobody tells Congressman Richard Hanna what he can't have for lunch on Capitol Hill, but on Route 233, he has to adhere to the federal regulations signed off on by congress, before he got there.

"Today, I could have a sandwich but I couldn't have cornbread because there's two breads involved. It's ridiculous," says Congressman Hanna.

The Congressman had lunch Wednesday with elementary students at Westmoreland school, where he lent his voice to a chorus of cafeteria workers who have been struggling with what they call restrictive federal guidelines that leave kids hungry.

"The first day we had tacos on, I was in tears. I'm like 'I can't not serve these guys two tacos'" says Westmoreland Elementary Kitchen Manager Susan Arntsen.

Arntsen says that the new guidelines mean that the children have less choice and are often forced to put on their tray items that they don't really like, and that those often end up in the trash.

Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney also had lunch with the Westmoreland students on Wednesday. She says more autonomy for the school districts is key.

"Obviously, we need to work with our federal representatives on changing it but the school districts need to have autonomy as well and the federal government is intervening in that," says Assemblywoman Tenney.

Hanna is among several members of Congress who have sent letters to the U.S. Agriculture Secretary, urging him to revisit and modify those restrictive school nutrition guidelines. Hanna says there could be other options to address the problem.

"When we go back the farm bill will be something that's out there," Hanna said. "Maybe there's an opportunity. I'll look at it, see if I can address it that way."

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