WASHINGTON – The Trump administration announced Friday that it plans to roll back school lunch regulations that produced healthier meals for students to allow schools “more flexibility” in what they serve “because they know their children best.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new proposed rules that would allow schools to cut the amount of fruits and vegetables they were required to serve under standards championed by former first lady Michelle Obama.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the changes will let “school nutrition professionals have more flexibility to serve appetizing and healthy meals that appeal to their students’ preferences and subsequently reduce food waste.”
The proposal targets the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which the former first lady actively promoted. It phased in healthier school meal rules with guidelines for nutrition, requiring school cafeterias to increase the servings of fruits and vegetables.
The announcement Friday came on Obama’s birthday. The new rules will affect nutritional programs that feed over 20 million students across the USA.
The new proposal would allow schools to “adjust fruit servings during breakfast” and offer “meats and meat alternates” during breakfast. Under the current standards, students are served one cup of fruit during breakfast for students in K-12th grades, and certain types of vegetables during meals served at schools.
The new roll back would also allow “local schools to offer more vegetable varieties,” opening the door to unhealthier vegetables potentially being served.
The House Committee on Education and Labor responded to the new proposed rules, saying that “For many children, the food they eat at school is their only access to healthy, nutritious meals. This . . . puts special interests above the long-term health and development of America’s students.”
The proposal also aims to make “it easier for schools to offer school lunch entrees for a la carte purchase, thereby reducing food waste.”
However, the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity has said that “Side dishes like cookies and fries, which could be offered once in a while as part of a balanced lunch, could be offered a la carte every day” and lead to consistency in unhealthy food being eaten.
The Trump administration has consistently targeted the standards set forth by the Obama administration, with Perdue and the USDA under Trump citing the need for flexibility.
In 2019, a rollback targeted rules on the types of grain and milk, and the amount of salt served to students.
The School Nutrition Association (SNA), which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools, has long said many of the Obama administration standards are unworkable and overly prescriptive, resulting in higher costs and fewer students participating in lunch programs.
“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. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” Perdue said in the statement.