Back in May, when President Trump’s Agriculture Secretary announced that his agency was going to “make school meals great again,” he created quite a media stir. Partisan news outlets (whether left- or right-leaning) typically portrayed the development as a dramatic “dismantling” or “axing” of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s improved school nutrition standards, and public health advocates decried the move as a huge step backward for children’s health.
But as I explained here in “Yes, School Meal Standards Just Got Weaker – But Not As Much As You Think,” that May announcement really only locked in the status quo on standards that had already been relaxed during the Obama administration. Specifically, Secretary Perdue promised to:
- continue a system under which districts can obtain a waiver to serve some grain foods (breads, pastas, etc.) that are not “whole grain-rich,” if they can show hardship in meeting a 100 percent whole-grain rich standard;
- lock in the current – and already reduced – sodium level in school food, while relieving schools of meeting a more rigorous low sodium standard in the future; and
- allow schools to serve one-percent chocolate milk, as opposed to only fat-free chocolate milk (white milk may already be served in a one-percent variety.) This proposal was a new one — the result of dairy industry lobbying.
As I said in my May post, any roll-back of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act rules is misguided, given that 99 percent of districts were reportedly already meeting the more rigorous standards. But I also wanted to put Perdue’s announcement in proper perspective: it was hardly an outright “axing” of Michelle Obama’s efforts, which included the introduction of calorie limits, a ban on trans fats, a greater variety of vegetables served and an important requirement that kids take a half-cup serving of fruits or vegetables at lunch.
Now, though, Secretary Perdue’s announcement has been codified into an interim final rule, with a public comment period ending on January 29, 2018. So this is the perfect time for ordinary parents to speak out in support of maintaining healthier school meal standards.
To submit a comment, just click on this link. And to help you formulate your thoughts, you can see what leading public health organizations have to say about the interim final rule here:
- Alliance for a Healthier Generation
- Center for Science in the Public Interest
- American Heart Association
Do you love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Follow TLT on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! You can also subscribe to Lunch Tray posts, and be sure to download my FREE 50-page guide, “How to Get Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom.”