The Department of Agriculture proposed new rules for school lunches and meals, actively targeting policy spearheaded by Former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Currently, it is mandated that schools offer high quantities of nutritious red and orange vegetables. With this change, schools will have more discretion in the amount and variety of vegetables. Another change is that students will be able to purchase more entrée items as a la carte selections. The proposal builds off the Trump administration’s 2018 policy that rolled back whole grain and sodium regulations, allowing schools to provide white breads and saltier foods.
Such a proposal has gained support through concerns over school lunch costs and restrictions on school administration to make changes in what is served to kids. The Department of Agriculture says its goals are to “simplify” nutritional guidelines and combat waste. According to the USDA, the goal of this new rule is to give school administrators more flexibility in what they serve in school cafeterias.
This new rollback in key nutritional standards puts approximately 30 million children, including nearly 22 million low-income children at a higher risk for health issues.
While the Nutritional School Lunch Program is not entirely cancelled, this is a significant blow to the program aimed at combatting childhood diseases and providing school kids with nutritional meals. Critics of the proposal argue the changes will result in children eating less fruits and vegetables and more unhealthy options like pizza, burgers and fries.
Another large concern is that the new rule now allows students to purchase full entrées as a la cart items, which creates a loophole in the standards set in place. Such loophole allows students to exceed the recommended caloric intake and saturate their diets with foods that should be eaten in moderation.
USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue supported the changes by highlighting the common pickiness of kids, stating “if kids are not eating what is being served, [because they don’t like healthier options compared to unhealthy ones) then they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted”. Such a statement also tapped into fiscally conservative supporters keen on cutting government budget costs in a variety of areas, even school lunches.
With nearly 14 million obese children in the US, healthy foods are an imperative in protecting them against risks like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity, in addition to associated complications. The new Trump administration rules directly challenge the standards established by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
Previous rollbacks on the National School Lunch Program have resulted in a lawsuit by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), organizational partners of CSPI, and attorneys generals. It is expected that with the large outcry over previous ammendments, this proposal will also be challenged in the courts.
The 60 day commenting period ends March 23rd, 2020, post your public comment to this proposal here!
- Center for Science in the Public Interest – An independent and science-based consumer advocacy organization committed to improving the food system and to support healthy eating.
- ParentsTogether – A national and parent led organization created to keep parents informed and active in policies that impact kids and families.
- Feeding America – America’s largest hunger relief organization.
Reach out to your senators and representatives to take action!