On Thursday, Donald Trump’s administration announced plans to roll back rules aimed at making school lunches healthier and more nutritious. This decision will impact the lives of over 30 million children who are regularly served meals at institutions across the country, as reported by Reuters.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has long been opposed to these healthier rules, which were championed by first lady Michelle Obama during the Obama administration. Perdue, who vowed to eliminate these rules when he took office back in May of 2017, says that the system has proven problematic for many schools across the country.
“If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” Perdue said in an official statement.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was originally enacted back in 2010, and found an ardent supporter in first lady Michelle Obama. The plan set specific health standards for the food served at school lunches, including a maximum for calories and a minimum requirement for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The rules also required that institutions cut down on trans fats and sodium commonly found in cafeteria lunches.
Under the Trump administration, the rules will be significantly relaxed. Schools will have a longer timeline in which to reduce the sodium content of their food. Under the new rules, schools will have 2024 to hit the first target, with the second slated for 2025; originally, the final target sodium levels were expected to be hit by 2023. This final targeted reduction has now been eliminated completely.
There will be more beverage options under the new rules as well — and not all of them will be particularly healthy. The national school lunch program and school breakfast program can now offer flavored milk, as long as it is low-fat. Previously, only fat-free milk was allowed to be flavored.
Whole grains take a hit from the rollbacks as well. Only half of the grains served at school lunches are now required to be whole grain. Under the Obama administration, whole grains were the only type that could be served to students. Schools that wished to serve refined grains to students were required to get a special waver.
Critics of the rollback are particularly concerned about the dismissal of sodium targets, saying this could have a negative impact on the health and well-being of students across the country. The Whole Grains Council, American Heart Association, and CSPI have all publicly condemned this announcement.