Sunday, 21 October, 2018

Gov't relaxes healthy standard for school meals

Ellis Copeland | 03 May, 2017, 02:36

The Trump administration is making some changes to nutrition standards for school meals, which were a part of First Lady Michelle Obama's healthy lunch initiative.

As his first major action in office, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is planning an announcement Monday afternoon at an elementary school in the Washington suburb of Leesburg, Virginia. Schools have always been required to follow government nutrition rules if they accept federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students, but the Obama administration's standards were stricter.

States can grant exemptions during the 2017-18 school year from requirements that all grain products served in school meals are whole-grain rich if schools are "experiencing hardship" in meeting them.

Right now it is still unclear how these changes will affect your child's lunch plate. They allow 1% fat flavored milk back into school cafeterias.

Sodium reductions set in place by the Obama administration will be postponed for at least three years to "provide schools and the school nutrition industry with the certainty and predictability they need to make appropriate plans for creating foods with the appropriate amount of sodium". The group often battled with the Obama administration, which phased in the healthier school meal rules starting in 2012.

Perdue said the changes were being made because existing nutrition requirements for school lunches were too stringent and had resulted in higher costs for school districts. Cecilia Muñoz, who worked on the nutrition program under Obama, told McClatchy that a measurable improvement was beginning to show up in children's obesity statistics.

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The school nutrition standards have always been a source of controversy, making them a more likely target of the current administration.

The Trump administration changes leave most of the Obama administration's school meal rules in place, including requirements that students must take fruits and vegetables on the lunch line. "School nutrition professionals are committed to the students they serve and will continue working with USDA and the Secretary to strengthen and protect school meal programs".

He said the department will work on long-term solutions to further tweak the rules.

The fight over school lunches has lasted years. Kids like her chicken noodle soup, she says, but rejected it when she lowered the sodium content because it was thinner and had less taste.

"While the health impact of reopening this rule is unknown at this point, it's clear [that] having American schoolchildren eat fewer whole grains is not heart-healthy", Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, said in a statement. "But the whole grain variety has little black flakes in it, and the kids won't eat it".

Others don't want to see any changes to the healthier meals.

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