The Trump administration has started to undo former First Lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch rules.
In one of his first acts as the new agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue announced an interim rule aimed at “providing regulatory flexibility for the National School Lunch Program” during the lunch hour at an elementary school in Leesburg, Va., Monday, the Associated Press reports.
The school lunch rules, which Obama strengthened in an effort to combat childhood obesity, are not working, 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,” Perdue said during his remarks at the school.
— Sec. Sonny Perdue (@SecretarySonny) May 1, 2017
“A perfect example is in the south, where the schools want to serve grits,” Perdue said in a statement. “But the whole grain variety has little black flakes in it, and the kids won’t eat it. The school is compliant with the whole-grain requirements, but no one is eating the grits. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Perdue’s “Make School Lunches Great Again” interim rule postpones mandatory sodium reductions for at least three years, lets schools to serve more non-whole grains, and even allows 1 percent flavored chocolate milk back in the lunchroom.
Former President Barack Obama’s Department of Agriculture said in January that schools who were not able to meet a July 1 deadline for the next phase of sodium reduction requirements would be granted exemptions as long as they were working toward the goal.
The dairy industry has lobbied the government for years to relax restrictions on milk in school cafeterias, and the Department of Agriculture will soon publish a new rule to reflect the relaxed standards toward serving milk in school meals.
Michelle Obama spearheaded reforms to the school lunch program to improve youth nutrition and reduce childhood obesity, but many schools found the restrictions difficult to follow. (RELATED: Kentucky Students To First Lady Michelle Obama: Your Food ‘Tastes Like Vomit’)
Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts joined Perdue at the Leesburg school Monday, and said that the new flexibility will help “ensure that schools are able to serve nutritious meals that children will actually eat.”
“We worked really hard the last two years to provide flexibility, but after unanimously passing a bipartisan bill out of Committee, our effort stalled,” Roberts said in a statement.
“The policies that Secretary Perdue has declared here today will provide the flexibility to ensure that schools are able to serve nutritious meals that children will actually eat. Because that is really what these programs are about: serving meals to hungry children so that they can learn and grow.”
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