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White House threatens veto of GOP bill allowing schools to opt out of healthier school meals

WASHINGTON - The White House has threatened to veto a House bill that would allow some schools to opt out of healthier meal standards.

The GOP spending bill would allow schools to waive the school lunch and breakfast standards championed by first lady Michelle Obama for the next school year if they lost money on meal programs over a six-month period. The House is expected to consider the legislation as soon as Wednesday.

In a statement threatening a presidential veto, the White House said the bill would be "a major step backwards for the health of American children by undermining the effort to provide kids with more nutritious food."

The school meal rules set by Congress and the Obama administration over the past several years require more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the lunch line. Also, there are limits on sodium, sugar and fat.

Some school nutrition directors have lobbied for a break, saying the rules have proved to be costly and restrictive. The schools pushing for changes say limits on sodium and requirements for more whole grains are particularly challenging, while some school officials say kids are throwing away fruits and vegetables.

Republicans have said the standards are overreach. Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, the Republican author of the agriculture spending bill that includes the provision, said the rules are too much too quick and schools need more time to comply.

Mrs. Obama has lobbied Congress to keep the standards, holding a White House event late last month with school nutrition directors who said the guidelines are working in their schools.

The Senate did not include the opt-out language in its version of the spending bill.

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Find Mary Clare Jalonick on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MCJalonick

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