In a continuation of their dedication to deregulation, the Trump administration recently moved to ease restrictions placed on school nutrition programs put in place as part of Michelle Obama’s push to reduce childhood obesity. The administration claims it was not intentional, but the move came on the same day as Obama’s birthday, the New York Times reports.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue released a statement explaining the decision.
“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals,” said Perdue. “We listened and now we’re getting to work.”
The new proposed rule from the Department of Agriculture would ease restrictions on how much fruit schools were required to offer during breakfast, what types of vegetables needed to be included in meals, and would also broaden what foods could be counted as a snack.
Nutritionists are concerned that the deregulation of what constitutes a snack will lead to schools offering cheap but unhealthy options at every meal. In addition, the loosening of restrictions on what vegetables need to be offered could lead to a return of starchy potatoes overtaking healthier options such as leafy greens in school meals.
Colin Schwartz, the Center for Science in the Public Interest's deputy director of legislative affairs, released a statement saying that the proposal would create a loophole that encourages unhealthy eating habits.
"[It] 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.
The School Nutrition Association, a trade union of school food-service manufacturers and school food professionals, were in support of the easing of restrictions. SNA’s president, Gay Anderson, said that the organization would study the new proposals further, but noted that a few of the requirements of Obama’s nutritional guidelines under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 contributed to reduced lunch participation, high costs, and food waste, The Washington Post reports.
Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign for improving school nutrition and encouraging a healthier lifestyle for children came as a reaction to childhood obesity statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 13.7 million children and adolescents aged two to 19 are currently considered obese.
Many Democrats reacted negatively to the proposals from the USDA. Rep. Ayanna Presley of Massachusetts spoke out about the proposed rule and called it more evidence that Trump’s administration is intentionally being cruel with their policies.
“Egregious. The Occupant is trying to play petty with the food our babies eat. Add it to the list affirming that the cruelty is the point with this White House,” tweeted Presley.