Democrats Upset Over the Repeal of Michelle Obama's School Lunch Rules

Lauren Perry
May 3, 2017

But now, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, is said to be rolling back these mandatory policies and giving schools "regulatory flexibility" regarding the National School Lunch Program.

He made his announcement at an elementary school cafeteria in Leesburg, Virginia, near Washington, before a tray of chicken nuggets, fruit and salad.

Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, said some schools in the South have had problems with grits, because "the whole grain variety has little black flakes in it" and kids won't eat it.

"This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals", stated Agriculture Secretary Perdue. "This rollback may allow schools the option to improve flavor profiles with less whole grain foods and the use of spices, including salt", he said. It gave the USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools, including vending machines, "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores. And instead of requiring schools to continue reducing sodium levels in school meals, the government will let schools keep sodium levels where they are now, at least through 2020.

"There's not that much that individual food service directors can do to change the sodium in the foods they serve, because they're getting them from companies", she said.

"The school is compliant with the whole-grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits", Perdue said. Fat-free milk could be flavored, but not low-fat milk. "Schools have been moving in the right direction, so it makes no sense to freeze that progress in its tracks and allow dangerously high levels of salt in school lunch". These organizations were the foremost critics of the previous administration's plan to change the rules on school lunches to make them healthier.

School lunches for elementary school students are now required to have less than 1,230 mg of sodium, a change put in place in 2014.

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"It is outrageous that President Trump and his administration are now pushing a policy that weakens the essential nutrition standards which have strengthened access to healthy food for so many students", McGovern said. But some school districts are still trying to contest it because they believe that they end up throwing these away, as kids do not like eating their vegetables.

Certainly the potential for less nutritious school lunches has grown with Secretary Perdue's changes, and that is discouraging.

"Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn't mean they should".

But public health groups criticized the rules change.

Milk is a key component of school meals, meaning schools must have more options for students who select milk as part of their lunch or breakfast. Only time will tell how profoundly the roll back of school lunch regulations affects America's school children and their access to satisfying, healthy, and nutritious lunches.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that childhood obesity has tripled in the USA since the 1970s.

For future meal planning, Abrams said the district will look for guidance from the Illinois School Board of Education, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the School Nutrition Association.

Other reports by VgToday

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