Trump Administration Reverses Progress On Public School Meals, Ends Michelle Obama’s Dream Project

Andrew HarnikAP Images

The Trump administration is undoing another Obama-era project, specifically former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a final ruling to reverse the meal plan. Their announcement noted that the ruling of adding in more options for meal plans allows them to take on the challenge of teen health. By allowing flavored one-percent milk and other types of grains that are not whole grain, they hope to entice students to eat more. Currently, schools are only allowed to serve non-fat flavored milk, non-fat unflavored milk, and low-fat unflavored milk, according to Cardiovascular Business.

According to Washington Polity, this enables the schools to also add in foods that have higher sodium levels than previously suggested by the Obama initiative.

With the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed in 2010, the Obama administration aimed to provide a standard for health and wellness for children.

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that the legislation “will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school lunch and breakfast programs by improving the critical nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children.”

Michelle Obama said food is critical to the overall wellbeing of children, especially those who are in school.

“The talented people who cook the food at your school will be offering you all kinds of healthy, delicious new choices. Foods that are good for you and taste good, too. It’s about ensuring that all of you have everything you need to learn and grow and succeed in school and in life.”

However, the historic reform is being rolled back. Earlier this year, a key lobbying group, School Nutrition Association, raised their intent to change the federal nutrition standards. They said they were looking for “practical flexibility,” which basically means “tastier, less healthy school lunches” with “more salt, less quinoa,” according to CNN.

USDA’s Stance on Healthy, Thrown-Out Foods?

Michelle Obama's Initiative on Healthier Meals
Featured image credit: Andrew Harnik

The USDA argues that the decision will bridge the economic and health gaps in school kitchens.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said that their rollback will still be able to provide kids with “nutritious and appealing meals.” Purdue added that based on their survey on children and schools, the Obama act did not reach its goal in positively affecting the ecosystem.

“Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can.”

However, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation dismissed these claims, saying the statement did not reflect the progress and success of the school meal program. They said that instead of lowering standards, what the USDA should do is to provide more assistance for schools who are having a hard time meeting their sodium and whole grain targets.

“Schools need our support to continue offering meals that keep kids healthy, an investment in our children’s health that will best prepare the next generation for success.”

The interim final ruling will take effect on July 1, 2018.