During the presidency of Barack Obama, much stricter laws were implemented regarding the lunches that school children should be fed on a daily basis. His wife, Michelle Obama, championed the new standards, which got rid of unhealthy things like sodas from school lunch menus in a bid to stem the rise of child obesity in the country, as well as lowering the salt levels and calories in foods served.
But under incumbent President Donald Trump's administration, all those standards have been dropped again. Late in 2018, it was announced that the requirements for both salt and grains would be removed from the Obama-era requirements, but many feel those changes have been made with no regard for health standards. According to NBC News, six states and the District of Columbia have decided to do something about it.
On Wednesday, New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, and the District of Columbia brought a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture for the changes they have made to school lunches in the past few months. The case argues that the government has "significantly weakened nutritional standards for sodium and whole grains," and stated they did so without allowing public comment.
They have further alleged that the lowered standards for school lunches are in violation of the nutritional standards that have been set by Congress.New York Attorney General Letitia James has championed the lawsuit, with over a million children in her state relying on school lunches.
"The Trump Administration has undermined key health benefits for our children — standards for salt and whole grains in school meals — with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law," she stated.
Previously, schools that wanted to provide children with something that would "violate" the nutritional standards set during the Obama administration would have to apply for a waiver, and specify what they wanted to serve that was not pre-approved. According to NBC News, the majority of the waiver requests were for "pasta, tortillas, biscuits, and grits."
The changes to the school lunch program, which were announced on December 6 last year, affect mostly lower-income children who rely on their school to provide them with daily meals. It's estimated around 30 million American children make use of the system.
According to Reuters, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue argued that the new standards were too high, and made it too difficult for schools to comply with the nutritional requirements while still serving food the children would actually want to eat.
While fussy children is a concern for schools, their health is much more important. There are plenty of health risks associated with an unhealthy diet, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, the prevalence of which can be greatly increased by eating higher amounts of sugar, salt, and processed foods.
Healthier school lunches, while not the only fix, can massively improve the quality of life of the next generation, as well as teach them healthier eating habits for life.