Schools in the U.S. won’t have to cut the salt in meals just yet and they can serve kids fewer whole grains, under changes to federal nutrition standards announced Monday.
The move by the Trump administration rolls back rules championed by former first lady Michelle Obama as part of her healthy eating initiative.
It’s just too hard for schools to do and kids don’t like the food, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
“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 in a statement. The Agriculture Department has jurisdiction over school food programs.
“Schools are experiencing challenges in finding the full range of products they need and that their students enjoy in whole grain-rich form. They need continued flexibility in meeting the whole grain requirements for school meals,” USDA said in a statement headlined “Ag Secretary Perdue Moves to Make School Meals Great Again.”
Schools could also serve 1 percent milk instead of the nonfat now required.
“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 programme,” said Perdue, who travelled to a school in Leesburg, Virginia, to make the announcement.
But public health groups criticized the rules change. “It’s discouraging that just days into his tenure, one of the first things that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue will do is to roll back progress on the quality of the meals served to America’s children,” said Margo Wooten, the director of nutritional policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement.
Here In Ontario as of September 2011, all food and beverages sold in publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools have followed the provinces School Food and Beverage Policy. The policy includes a set of nutrition standards for providing healthier food and beverages at school.
Separately, the Food and Drug Administration delayed restaurant menu labeling requirements by a full year, to 2018. The restaurant industry had lobbied hard against the rule and succeeded in delaying it multiple times.
“The FDA has made the right decision to delay a rule that would have essentially dictated how every food service establishment in America with more than 20 locations — restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, and more — writes and displays their menus,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement.
CSPI didn’t like that decision, either.
“Republicans are just as likely as Democrats to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and other diet-related health problems,” Wootan said. “Yet the Trump Administration is myopically putting Big Food’s interests over the interests of American consumers.”
Benjamin Diaz started working for Debate Report in 2017. Ben grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife a year later. Benhas been a proud Torontonian for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for CTV News and the Huffington Post Canada.