The Trump administration is rolling back the signature healthy school lunch initiative put in place by Michelle Obama — and announced it on her birthday.
On Friday, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced that the administration would be putting in new regulations that made it easier for schools to offer a la carte entrees to students and expand the vegetables that would count toward nutrition requirements, Bloomberg reported.
Opponents said the move would undermine the nutritional focus put in place during Barack Obama’s presidency, and that students could now pick things like pizza or cheeseburgers with no other healthy option that had previously been automatically included in lunches.
In an op-ed for The Hill, Dr. Rachel Borton, director of the Family Nurse Practitioner online program at Bradley University, said that the move could endanger both the physical and mental health of students. This was especially true of low-income students who often relied on school for healthy meals that they may not receive at home, Borton wrote.
“If those students don’t have access to the nutritious options provided by the school, they may turn to low cost, processed foods that are high in calories but sparse in nutrients. Immediate effects of this type of diet include weight gain and poor physical health,” Borton wrote. “Long-term impacts range from increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a slew of other unfortunate health outcomes.”
The Bloomberg report also noted that the move was announced on the former first lady’s birthday, which was perceived as a slight from Donald Trump to the Obamas. The president has been accused of taking actions with the intention of undoing his predecessor’s major accomplishments, including attempts to repeal Obamacare and ending the Iran nuclear agreement.
The news was announced not long after Barack Obama took to Instagram to post a birthday message for his wife, showing the couple together in a set of photo booth snaps.
There was no public hint that Trump’s past relationship with the Obamas played a role in either the policy change or the decision to announce it on Michelle’s birthday. Perdue said the move was meant to cut down on wasted food by allowing students to select more individual items.
“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals,” he said. “We listened and now we’re getting to work.”