Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue visited an elementary school in Virginia yesterday to commemorate School Nutrition Employee Week, and used the appearance to announce major changes to nutrition standards in school lunch programs. Federal requirements will be relaxed in several categories, allowing more local control of student nutrition.
"This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals," Perdue said. "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."
An overview of the new "flexibilities," according to the USDA:
Whole grains: States may grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in serving 100 percent of grain products as whole-grain rich for the upcoming school years.
Sodium: Schools will not be required to meet Sodium Target 2 for the next four years. Instead, schools that meet Sodium Target 1 will be considered compliant.
Milk: Schools may return to serving 1 percent flavored milk through the school meals programs.
"I've got 14 grandchildren, and there is no way that I would propose something if I didn't think it was good, healthful, and the right thing to do," Perdue continued. "And here's the thing about local control: it means that this new flexibility will give schools and states the option of doing what we're laying out here today. These are not mandates on schools."
The new regulations (or lack thereof) roll back changes championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The change reflects the Trump Administration's second suspension in a day of a Michelle Obama-backed program; the White House also eliminated the education initiative Let Girls Learn yesterday.
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