Trump administration to roll back some school meal standards
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration is ready to roll back some nutrition standards for federally subsidized school meals, reversing elements of first lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiative.
In his first major act in Trump's Cabinet, Perdue, a former Georgia governor, announced the nutrition rollback at an elementary school in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Leesburg, Va. Ahead of the announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said a new rule would provide “regulatory flexibility,” though officials did not say what the changes would be.
The rules set fat, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond. Schools have long been required to follow government nutrition rules if they accept federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students, but the Obama administration’s standards were stricter.
The School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools, has said many of the standards are unworkable and lobbied to roll them back. They have argued for changes to whole grain and sodium requirements, in particular, saying it's hard to make foods that are high enough in whole grains and low enough in sodium that kids will eat.
They have also lobbied for more flexibility in rules that require kids to eat fruits and vegetables, saying those often get thrown away.
“If kids aren't eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition," Perdue said Monday, "thus undermining the intent of the program.”
The new rules would also give schools greater leeway to serve 1% flavored milk, for which the dairy industry has lobbied. In a proclamation issued Monday, Perdue said he'd direct USDA to begin the regulatory process "to provide that discretion to schools."
The SNA often clashed with the Obama administration, which phased in the healthier school meal rules starting in 2012. Obama pushed the changes as part of her Let's Move campaign to combat childhood obesity.
The rules set fat, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond. Schools have long been required to follow government nutrition rules if they accept federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students, but the Obama administration's standards were stricter.
The change will likely be seen as a rebuke to Mrs. Obama’s championing of tougher nutrition regulations.
USDA says its latest statistics show that more than 31.6 million children get lunch each day through the National School Lunch Program. Since the modern program began in 1946, more than 224 billion lunches have been served.
Greg Toppo of USA TODAY also contributed to this story.