The USDA is loosening school nutrition standards as childhood obesity soars.
The Trump administration wants to keep the salt, fat, and sugar in kids’ lunches.
In May, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, announced that he planned to “Make School Meals Great Again” during his tenure at USDA. (No, this is not a joke.) And apparently that means relaxing nutrition standards for federally subsidized school lunch programs, according to a new USDA interim rule out Thursday.
Effective July 1, 2018, schools can offer kids 1 percent chocolate and strawberry milk again, opt out of offering whole-grain products, and, most importantly, freeze sodium levels in school lunches instead of reducing them further.
“Schools need flexibility in menu planning so they can serve nutritious and appealing meals,” Perdue said in a statement. This May, when the agency released the temporary legislation that the new rule finalizes, the USDA said schools had been asking for more control over the whole grains, sodium, and milk they serve kids.
But it’s hard not to view the announcement as an attack on significant nutritional improvements to the school lunch program during the Obama administration, and Michelle Obama’s legacy of fighting the obesity.
Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the 30 million kids dependent on the free and low-cost meals provided by the program now get more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains instead of the bland fish stick tacos and mystery meat they had come to expect. Of all the issues to prioritize, Perdue has been targeting school lunches since his first days in office.