In its mission to roll back nutritional standards that were developed by the Obama administration to fight childhood obesity, the Trump administration has issued a final rule that permanently delays and eliminates sodium targets and cuts in half the amount of whole grains that need to be served in schools participating in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs.
According to the New York Times, critics of the move aver that the roll back was enacted without doing any scientific research beforehand and despite the science underlying the requirements for healthier meals that shows that healthier school meals can improve the overall health and school preparedness of students.
Now, USDA is claiming that the Obama-era rules were burdensome for school districts and resulted in increased costs and decreased participation in the federal school lunch program. The USDA also asserts that certain states need the flexibility to “plan and serve meals that are economically feasible and acceptable to their students and communities,” and are “culturally appropriate.”
According to Anne Harkavy, Executive Director of Democracy Forward, which is representing the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Healthy School Food Maryland, “This [action] is not just wrong; it’s illegal.” Critics also claim that the move puts the health of more than 30 million of the nation’s economically disadvantaged students at risk.
Echoing Ms. Harkavy’s concerns, on April 3rd a coalition of six states and the District of Columbia, along with advocacy organizations, sued the Trump administration in federal court over the rollback, claiming that the administration illegally issued rules that weakened requirements that school meals contain less salt and more whole grains. The suits claim the USDA violated the Administrative Procedure Act, issuing its rules with little public notice and no reasoned explanation and against overwhelming opposition from the public.