On May 1st, the Trump administration made some changes to federal nutrition standards, which aim at disrupting former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature “healthy eating” school lunch initiative.
According The Associated Press, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced during a visit to a school in Leesburg, Virginia that 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
“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.
Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, was particularly familiar with how schools in the South have struggled to get kids to eat mandated whole-grain items such as pastas, biscuits, tortillas, and grits on the lunch menus.
“The school is compliant with the whole-grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits,” Perdue said. And considering grits are a southern staple, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Perdue also said the department has consulted with the School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools, and will work on long-term solutions for schools that have struggled with the “restrictive” nature of the Obama guidelines.
Additionally, according to The Hill, a lower sodium allowance for elementary school students that was slated to go into effect this year was delayed for at least three years.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, one of the most prominent lawmakers calling for an easing of the standards, said in a statement to The Hill, “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.”
However (and perhaps this comes as no surprise), Perdue’s announcement wasn’t supported by all and didn’t come without protest, as Leesburg mayor Kelly Burk and a group of 20 others stood outside the school to voice their displeasure.
“Some people don’t like regulations, but these are important regulations that impact kids,” Burk said.
Some of the Obama regulations, however, were left as is, particularly those pertaining to fruit and vegetable offerings.