Children eating meals in the nation’s public schools will be consuming more salt, after the Trump administration decided to scale back the healthy school meals initiative set in motion five years ago by the Obama White House.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed off on a measure Monday that relaxes standards in the key areas of whole grains, salt and milk for academic year 2017-18.
Perdue said in a press release that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs to make food choices both healthful and appealing to students.
“I was talking to some folks in Washington about this, and they said that the current program is working. ‘How do you know?’” Perdue said he asked. “They said it’s because 99 percent of schools are at least partially compliant.
“Only in Washington can that be considered proof that the system is working as it was intended,” Perdue said. “A perfect example is in the South, where the schools want to serve grits. 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.”
The 2012 guidelines were a huge priority for former first lady Michelle Obama, who pushed for nutritional school meals. However, the standards were unpopular among school cafeteria workers, who claimed that the emphasis for students to eat more fruits and vegetables only led to more of the meals ending up in the trash.