"We listened, and now we're getting to work".
Delivering on his promise to act on feedback from dietary professionals, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced two proposals today that will put local school and summer food service operators back in the driver's seat of their programs, because they know their children best.
A news release from the agency provided few specifics about the proposed changes, but says the agency would allow schools to offer "more vegetable varieties", "customize meal patterns" and "adjust fruit servings".
But child nutrition advocates saw it differently. The proposed rules for the Food and Nutrition Service-the agency that manages nutritional programs for almost 100,000 schools around the nation, feeding nearly 30 million kids-would let schools serve up more fare such as pizza, fries, and burgers, while allowing them to cut back on the fruits and veggies they're now made to offer at breakfast and lunch.
For breakfast, the proposed rules will cut the amount of fruit included in breakfasts served outside of the cafeteria, a popular choice with new grab-n-go options.
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"If kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition - thus undermining the intent of the program", he said at the time.
"[It] 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", Schwartz said. In addition, the loosening of restrictions on what vegetables need to be offered could lead to a return of starchy potatoes overtaking healthier options such as leafy greens in school meals.
The Trump administration has announced the reversal of new lunch standards at schools championed by former first lady Michelle Obama.
The roll backs also expand school's abilities to offer a la carte entrees for purchase, worrying some nutritionists that kids might opt for less healthy foods such as pizza and fries. Before Perdue's rule change that took effect in July 2017, schools were required to reduce sodium to average less than 935 milligrams in elementary schools, 1035 mg in middle school lunches and 1,080 mg in high school lunches. Before the rule change, only fat-free flavored milk was permitted.