USDA loosens school meal nutrition standards

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has lunch with students in the cafeteria at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg Va. Monday after he unveiled a new rule on school lunches as the Trump administration and other Republicans press for flexibility afte

USDA loosens school meal nutrition standards

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced new rules for school lunches that reverse some elements of former First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy eating initiative. She was widely known for her campaign against obesity. It was supported by public-health and environmental organizations.

Milk is a key component of school meals, meaning schools must have more options for students who select milk as part of their lunch or breakfast.

"The school is compliant with the whole-grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits", Perdue said.

Perdue also cited budget constraints as a reason for the rollback, but there's no evidence that the healthy lunch program was a financial problem.

"Schools are experiencing challenges in finding the full range of products they need and that their students enjoy in whole grain-rich form".

"I wouldn't be as big as I am today without flavored milk", Perdue said in remarks, according to ABC News.

The Trump administration announced late Monday that it would begin relaxing those guidelines, allowing schools to stop reducing sodium levels and continue serving fewer whole grains as well as 1 percent milk instead of skim only.

"All the way through this, the yardstick on the school lunch program was whether or not the kids were eating", said Kansas Republican Sen. Perdue scaling back some the changes made under former first lady Michelle Obama in 2012.

Kumar Chandran, policy director at FoodCorps - an offshoot of the federal initiative AmeriCorps, which encourages community service work - said the deregulation wave isn't in the interest of children or students, nor does it reflect the efficacy of nutritional science.

The School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools, has said numerous standards are unworkable and lobbied to roll them back.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pays for his lunch in the Catoctin Elementary School cafeteria in Leesburg, Va., Monday, May 1, 2017. Montague added that they had wanted flexibility for a while so that schools can serve meals that are both nutritious and palatable, and that they don't want kids wasting their meals by throwing them away.

"We worked really hard the last two years to provide flexibility, but after unanimously passing a bipartisan bill out of Committee, our effort stalled", Roberts said. It will also enable schools to bring back 1% milk and will freeze the restrictions on sodium that were scheduled to tighten again this coming year.

The USDA estimates 97 percent of schools have implemented the healthy school nutrition standards.

Sodium levels in USA school lunches now must average less than 1,230 milligrams in elementary schools; 1,360 mg in middle schools; and 1,420 mg in high school.

The decision comes the same day that the Trump administration rolled back some nutrition standards for federally subsidized school meals. But EWG President Ken Cook pointed out that what kids want isn't always what's good for them.

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