Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue rolls back new health food school cafeteria regulations, which means that schools won’t have to cut more salt from meals just yet and some will be able to serve kids fewer whole grains.
The USDA move partially rolls back rules championed by former first lady Michelle Obama as part of her healthy eating initiative. The department will delay an upcoming requirement to lower the amount of sodium in meals while continuing to allow waivers for regulations that all grains on the lunch line must be 50% whole grain.
Schools could also serve 1% flavored milk instead of the nonfat now required. It is part of the new USDA campaign to “Make School Meals Great Again.”
Health advocates who worked closely with the Obama administration on nutrition issues criticized the moves, saying that the Trump administration is messing with rules that are popular with the public.
The school meal changes reflect suggestions from the School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools. The group often battled with the Obama administration, which phased in the healthier school meal rules starting in 2012.
The Obama administration 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 these standards were stricter. Obama pushed the changes as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.
These changes leave most of the Obama administration’s school meal rules in place, including requirements that students must take fruits and vegetables on the lunch line. Some schools have asked for changes to that policy, saying students often throw them away.
But the health advocates who have championed the rules are concerned about the freeze in sodium levels, in particular.
Promoting healthy eating and combating childhood obesity were also top priorities for Michelle Obama. Curbing the requirements that Obama pushed for, Perdue said the standards led to children simply not eating the lunches.
“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said. “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.”
The USDA will now let states grant exemptions regarding whole grain standards for the 2017-2018 school year if they’re having trouble meeting the requirements, and the agency said it will take necessary regulatory actions to implement a long-term solution.
Info: https://goo.gl/gyoCf8 (USDA).