by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Trump administration has officially rolled back Obama-era lunch guidelines that promoted heightened nutrition standards for the national school lunch program.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010, was one of former first lady Michelle Obama’s biggest legacies. The increased nutrition standards for school lunches were meant to make schools healthier and played a prominent role in the first lady’s Let’s Move campaign.
Under the guidelines, schools were required to offer students fruits and vegetables every day, to increase their offerings of whole grain foods, to offer only fat-free or low-fat milk, to limit calories based on the age of children, to reduce the amount of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium offered in food. Now, schools will once again be able to offer foods made mostly of refined grains, such as noodles or biscuits.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue first unveiled that the administration was enforcing an interim rule that took aim at the contested Obama-era lunch rules in May 2017. The U.S. Department of Agriculture school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches in public schools, serving some 30 million children annually.
The USDA announced Thursday that only half of the grains served in lunches will need to be whole grains and that low-fat chocolate milk can return to menus. Schools will still have to meet reduced sodium levels, but they’ll no longer be required to reach a final goal for limiting sodium.
Perdue said in a department statement that schools have faced difficulties in serving meals that student’s find appetizing, but that also meet nutrition standards.