More pizza, less veggies: New school lunch rules in US?
Schools would be allowed to reduce the amount of vegetables and fruits required at school lunch and breakfasts while giving them greater scope to sell more pizza, hamburgers and french fries to students.
US President Donald Trump’s administration is now taking steps to roll back healthier standards for school lunches in the country and has proposed new rules to allow more pizza, meat and potatoes over fresh veggies, fruits and whole grains.
The move on Friday was seen as a "whack" at former First Lady Michelle Obama’s signature achievement, which established stricter nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches. And, it came on her birthday!
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 standards were a key initiative in Michelle Obama’s fight against childhood obesity.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the new proposals by the administration will give schools more flexibility, because “they know their children best”.
What are the new lunch rules now?
As per the new menu standards made by the Food and Nutrition Service Agency, schools would be allowed to reduce the amount of vegetables and fruits required at school lunch and breakfasts while giving them greater scope to sell more pizza, hamburgers and french fries to students.
The agency is responsible for administering nutritional programs that feed nearly 30 million students at 99,000 schools.
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps, who cleared the new rules, said the changes will help address what he described as "unintended consequences" of the regulations put in place during the Obama administration.
For example, when schools were trying to implement innovative solutions such as grab-and-go breakfast off a cart or meals in the classroom, they were forced to give kids two bananas to meet minimum federal requirements, the Washington Post reported.
Now, children would pick more fries and burgers:
Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Post that the latest proposed rules, if finalized, “would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, french fries and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day”.
He says that limiting the variety of vegetables could make french fries even more central to students’ diets.
Some of the reactions to the latest move are:
The Trump administration moved to roll back school nutrition standards including fresh fruit and vegetables championed by Michelle Obama on her actual birthday because Trump will do anything to erase an Obama legacy and he wants to kill us all. https://t.co/z58ODnDU8R— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) January 17, 2020
Really? And on her birthday?— Robert Reich (@RBReich) January 18, 2020
Honestly, of all the people you’ve ever known or heard of, is there anyone more petty and vindictive than Trump?https://t.co/6l88n340i1
Just when I thought that trump couldn’t possibly be a bigger asshole than he already is, he rolls back children’s school nutrition guidelines championed by our last real First Lady Michelle Obama, on her birthday. ???? #TrumpIsAnAsshole— Big Daddy Wickster (@jdwickie) January 18, 2020
The rules under Obama administration:
Under the Obama administration, the nutrition guidelines for schools that participated in the National School Lunch Program, required cafeterias to increase their offerings of fruits and vegetables, serve only skim or low-fat milk and cut trans-fat from the menu altogether.
They also required dramatic cuts in sodium in school cafeteria food.
The Trump administration has been slowly acting against the Obama-era school lunch rules. First, just days after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue assumed his role, he announced the USDA would be slowing the implementation of the aggressive sodium standards as well as Obama-era rules for whole grains and sweetened milks, citing food waste and non-participation as key rationales for the shift.
The USDA also provided the option to offer flavored, low-fat milk to children participating in school meal programs. To participants aged six and older, it reduced the whole grain requirements to half of the weekly grains served. It provided more time for schools to comply with reduced sodium levels in meals.
Then last year, the USDA moved to allow schools to substitute potatoes and other starchy vegetables for fruit with breakfast.
In essence, these proposals allowed foods served in schools to be saltier, fattier or more processed in the name of palatability.
Now, Friday’s proposals would allow schools to cut the amount of fruit included in breakfasts served outside of the cafeteria from one cup to a half cup.
The remaining calories could be filled with sweet pastries and granola bars. For lunches, the proposals would allow schools to offer potatoes as a vegetable every day and to provide pizza and burgers as a la carte items that students may pick over more nutritious full meals.
The proposals will be entered in the Federal Register on January 23, and will be open for public comment for 60 days.