The Trump administration delivered a huge blow to former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature “healthy eating” school lunch initiative on May 1 with changes to federal nutrition standards.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said his department would delay the Obama-era “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act” requirements on lowering the amount of sodium in meals and increasing the amount of whole grains, according to The Associated Press.
“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program,” Perdue said during his announcement of the guideline changes at a school in Leesburg, Virginia.
Under the new guidelines, public schools would also be allowed to serve 1 percent milk instead of the nonfat option required under Obama’s initiative, according to ABC News.
Any school that accepts federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students is required to follow government nutrition rules, but the Obama standards were stricter and often difficult for schools to follow in making sure their students were fed.
In particular, some school nutrition directors have said they have a hard time finding whole-grain pastas, biscuits and tortillas that kids will eat.
Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, was particularly familiar with how schools in the South have struggled to get kids to eat the mandated whole-grain items on the lunch menus.
For example, he said, students were refusing to eat grits — a southern staple — because the whole-grain variety had “little black flakes in it” that the kids were unfamiliar with and wouldn’t touch.
“The school is compliant with the whole-grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits,” Perdue said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Perdue said the department would work on long-term solutions for these schools that have struggled with the “restrictive” nature of the Obama guidelines.
In implementing the changes, the department consulted the School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools. The organization often disagreed with the Obama standards that limited the amount of fat, sugar and sodium being served in school cafeterias across the country.
Leesburg mayor Kelly Burk, along with about 20 others, protested outside the school ahead of the announcement to voice their disagreement with the changes.
“Some people don’t like regulations, but these are important regulations that impact kids,” Burk said.
Specifically, they impact kids by causing them to go hungry, but whatever.
Some of the Obama regulations were left untouched by the Trump administration. For example, guidelines regarding mandatory fruit and vegetable offerings remained in play.
However, a lower sodium allowance for elementary school students that was slated to go into effect this year was delayed for at least three years, according to The Hill.
The Trump administration and supporters of the nutrition changes have contended that the new guidelines were about schools having “flexibility” and children actually being well-fed while in the government’s care.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts was one of the most prominent lawmakers calling for an easing of the standards.
“The policies that Secretary Perdue has declared here today will provide the flexibility to ensure that schools are able to serve nutritious meals that children will actually eat. Because that is really what these programs are about: serving meals to hungry children so that they can learn and grow,” Roberts said in a statement, according to The Hill.
Sounds like the Trump administration wants to “Make Lunches Edible Again,” and we’re glad to see it happening so soon.
— Amber Lynn (@Amber_Lynn_S) November 21, 2014