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Senate approves bill making lunch program optional

A proposal to overturn a requirement for some schools to participate in a national program providing free and low-cost meals to students is advancing to the state House after Senators approved it Thursday.

The proposal comes after the Department of Agriculture introduced new nutritional rules for the program, calling for more fruits and vegetables and less sodium and trans-fats.

The bill’s sponsor, Mesa Republican Sen. Rich Crandall, says the new rules could be burdensome and districts should be able to opt out if they think that will save money.

Critics argue the proposal could end up hurting low-income families and kids could go hungry if schools drop the program.

The bill advanced with a 19-10 vote along party lines with Republicans in favor.

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