Trump Administration Rolls Back Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Regulations, Allowing More Salt and Fat…and Chocolate Milk

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue takes a bite of his salad as he has lunch with students in a cafeteria in May 2017 before announcing relaxed lunch guidelines. (AP PHOTO/CAROLYN KASTER)

The Trump administration has officially rolled back Obama-era lunch guidelines that promoted heightened nutrition standards for the national school lunch program.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, was one of former first lady Michelle Obama’s biggest legacies. The increased nutrition standards for school lunches were meant to make schools healthier and played a prominent role in the first lady’s Let’s Move campaign.

Under the guidelines, schools were required to offer students fruits and vegetables every day, to increase their offerings of whole grain foods, to offer only fat-free or low-fat milk, to limit calories based on the age of children, to reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium offered in food. Now, schools will once again be able to offer foods made mostly of refined grains, such as noodles or biscuits.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue first unveiled that the administration was enforcing an interim rule that took aim at the contested Obama-era lunch rules in May 2017. The U.S. Department of Agriculture school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches in public schools, serving some 30 million children annually.

The USDA announced Thursday that only half of the grains served in lunches will need to be whole grains and that low-fat chocolate milk can return to menus. Schools will still have to meet reduced sodium levels, but they’ll no longer be required to reach a final goal for limiting sodium.

Perdue said in a department statement that schools have faced difficulties in serving meals that students find appetizing, but that also meet nutrition standards.

“If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” he said.

But not all organizations agree with the shift in the rules.

The American Heart Association encouraged schools to “stay the course” and follow the stricter rules, according to The Associated Press, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s vice president of nutrition, Margo Wootan, said, “The Trump administration is putting politics before children’s health in ways worse than were expected.”

Perdue “is allowing schools to provide half as many whole grains despite the fact that 85% of schools have not requested any waivers. If all schools in Alabama, Idaho, and Montana can serve whole grains to students, schools in other states can too,” Wootan added Wootan via Twitter.

SOURCE: U.S. News – Megan Trimble