The Trump administration announced Thursday it would roll back school lunch standards to allow refined grains and low-fat chocolate milk, undoing rules set as part of the Obama administration’s effort to serve healthier lunches to kids.
According to the final rule on nutritional changes to be released later this month, The Department of Agriculture said in a statement that only half of the grains sold will have to be whole grain, flavored low-fat milk will be available and schools will have more time to meet the lower sodium requirements set by the Obama administration.
“USDA is committed to serving meals to kids that are both nutritious and satisfying,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said of the changes. “These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve.”
The rule changes will impact 99,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children every year, according to the Department of Agriculture.
USDA explained in a statement that the standards set during the Obama administration were causing problems for schools.
“If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” said Perdue. “We all have the same goals in mind — the health and development of our young people. USDA trusts our local operators to serve healthy meals that meet local preferences and build bright futures with good nutrition.”
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a food policy advocacy group, denounced the Trump administration’s decision, saying that it is an example of “putting politics before children’s health.”
The rule “locks in dangerously high levels of salt and brings back more refined white flour to school meals,” Vice President for Nutrition Margo Wootan wrote
“Nine out of ten children consume too much sodium which can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension in adulthood. In fact, one in six children already have high blood pressure. Schools were on track to gradually rein in high sodium levels over ten years.”
Park Wilde, a food policy professor at Tufts University, said the USDA should provide clear evidence before rolling back standards.
“For many years, leading researchers and public health nutrition organizations have urged USDA to provide children with school meals that have less salt and sugar, and more whole grains,” Wild said. “This rule does the opposite.”