EditorialOpinion

EDITORIAL: School Children Deserve Nutritious Meals — At Least They Once Did

New York University Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle says, “It’s pretty depressing to watch what’s happening to the gains in food and nutrition policy,” referring to the latest move by our current president to destroy anything related to the former president, Barack Obama.

But this time the attack is aimed squarely at the former president’s wife, Michelle Obama, who made it her mission to address both children’s nutrition in the U.S. and girls’ education around the world.

Trump’s Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, in his very first official act, has derailed Mrs. Obama’s program on nutrition which, we assume, came at the behest of President Trump. Perdue calls the loosening of restrictions on federally funded school lunch programs as “regulatory flexibility.” We call it what it is: ridiculous.

During Obama’s presidency, the first lady led an initiative that resulted in public schools being required to serve more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables to millions of children while limiting salt and fat. Our nation’s schools complied with those rules so that they could secure federal reimbursements for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students.

Consider that according to the USDA’s latest statistics, more than 31.6 million children receive lunch each day through the National School Lunch Program — an initiative that has served over 224 billion lunches since its founding in 1946. Meanwhile, Purdue contends that the recent change in policy is intended to allow schools to plan menus and to give them greater flexibility in choosing lunches that are “[more] appealing to students.”

We’re not sure why this matters particularly since most parents know that their children will almost always choose foods like burgers, fries, pizza, soda and candy over fruits and vegetables. So, who should be in charge when it comes to determining the meals prepared and served to our children: delightful little boys and girls or adults armed with more knowledge related to the long-term effects of allowing youth to eat junk food on a regular basis.

It’s difficult to discern why the Trump administration had made this decision. But clearly, it’s not based on simple logic or the recommendations from nutrition experts.

From our vantage seat, this is simply another attempt to destroy the legacy of Barack and Michelle Obama — even if those initiatives made sense, benefited most Americans and helped those families and their children who face poverty, community food deserts and must often chose between healthy meals and paying rent.

We can only hope that the current administration will reconsider for the sake of millions of children now in school as well as those who will soon become public school students.

Our children deserve more — or at least a fair shot given a playing field that, for the poor and minorities, has long been uneven. It shouldn’t matter who’s occupying the White House.

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