Trump administration releases new rules on school nutrition standards, rolls back Obama administrations efforts

Last week marked the first of many rollbacks the Trump administration and the USDA are planning on the way the USDA administers school lunch programs.

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The United States Department of Agriculture released the news rules for school nutrition standards citing the elimination of unnecessary regulatory burdens. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which was passed during the Obama administration, instituted new rules to help improve childhood nutrition.

The act not only set standards for sodium, fat and sugar, and minimum limits for fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but it also distributed new funds and resources for schools to have access to more local produce, Modern Farmer reported.

Last week marked the first of many rollbacks the Trump administration and the USDA are planning on the way the USDA administers school lunch programs. According to a press release from the USDA, the new rule is “part of USDA’s Regulatory Reform Agenda, developed in response to President Trump’s Executive Order to eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

“USDA is committed to serving meals to kids that are both nutritious and satisfying,” Sonny Perdue, Agriculture Secretary, said. “These common-sense flexibilities provide excellent customer service to our local school nutrition professionals, while giving children the world-class food service they deserve.”

The goal of the Trump administration’s new rule is to “increases local flexibility in implementing school nutrition standards for milk, whole grains, and sodium,” a press release stated.

According to the USDA’s press release, “the Child Nutrition Programs: Flexibilities for Milk, Whole Grains, and Sodium Requirements final rule offers schools new options as they serve meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), School Breakfast Program (SBP) and other federal child nutrition programs.”

The new rule as outlined by the USDA:

  • Provides the option to offer flavored, low-fat milk to children participating in school meal programs, and to participants ages six and older in the Special Milk Program for Children (SMP) and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP);
  • Requires half of the weekly grains in the school lunch and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich; and
  • Provides more time to reduce sodium levels in school meals.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was on pace to “gradually reduce sodium content over the course of the decade,” Modern Farmer reported, but the new rule will delay it by seven years.

“If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” Perdue said. “We all have the same goals in mind – the health and development of our young people. USDA trusts our local operators to serve healthy meals that meet local preferences and build bright futures with good nutrition.”

But critics of the Trump administration’s rollback in the way the USDA administers school lunch programs called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 a huge success citing “school lunch participation is up, long-term budgets don’t seem to be affected, and according to the USDA’s research, schools have reached near-universal compliance with the rules,” Modern Farmer reported.

But the Trump administration guarantees the new rule will benefit “nearly 99,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children annually through USDA’s school meal programs,” all while empowering local schools “with additional options to serve healthy and appealing meals.”

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