(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration announced a set of proposals on Friday that will loosen school and summer meal guidelines, further weakening one of former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature policy efforts.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue defended the new proposals in a statement Friday saying they will “empower schools to give their very best to our children nationwide.”
“Our proposed changes empower schools to give their very best to our children nationwide and have the potential to benefit nearly 100,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children each school day through USDA’s school meal programs,” Perdue said in the statement.
The Trump administration in 2018 finalized its rollback of school lunch regulations under former President Barack Obama, which was later challenged in court by a group of states. ABC News previously reported that some of the changes finalized by the Trump administration included allowing schools to offer additional milk flavors and curbing Obama-era regulations on sodium limits.
Friday’s proposed rules build onto the 2018 regulation, according to the USDA statement.
“Under the school meals proposed rule, school nutrition professionals have more flexibility to serve appetizing and healthy meals that appeal to their students’ preferences and subsequently reduce food waste,” the statement said.
The agency highlighted proposed new rules that would allow schools to “offer more vegetable varieties.” In addition, schools would have the ability to “adjust fruit servings” and make it easier to “offer meats/meat alternatives,” for breakfast, among other things.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) — a group that has previously challenged the administration in court over previous school meal guideline changes — weighed in on USDA’s newest proposal.
Colin Schwartz, CSPI’s deputy director of legislative affairs, in a statement called the rule an “assault on children’s health [that] continues today under the guise of ‘simplifying’ school meals.”
“In practice, if finalized, this would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, French fries, and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day,” Schwartz said.
Nancy Roman, president and CEO of the Partnership for a Healthier America also responded, claiming the proposals “appear to be a step in the wrong direction.”
“Putting politics aside, the science of the past few years suggests that we should be increasing the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal,” Roman said in a statement. “Young children especially need more exposure to unprocessed, easy-to-eat, fruits, vegetables, and greens.”
The proposals were announced on the former first lady’s birthday.
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