Nysha Recent News

School-lunch Nutrition Rules Partially Rolled Back

May 1, 2017            

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Businessman Sonny Perdue, sworn into his Cabinet Secretary position at April’s end, lost no time bringing change to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA).

 

On May 1, Perdue announced that his federal department would be relaxing guidelines and providing greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for schools’ meal programs.

 

Those requirements were largely put in place by a healthy eating initiative under the previous administration, which laid down stricter nutritional standards for federally-funded school lunches.

 

“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said during a visit to Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va.

 

“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,” said Perdue, who was accompanied by Patricia Montague of the School Nutrition Association.

 

Under the rollback of federal nutrition standards, schools now won’t have to cut salt in meals, states will be able to allow some schools to serve fewer whole grains, and schools will be allowed to serve 1% milk rather than only nonfat milk.

 

The now-relaxed standards on school lunch nutrition took effect in 2010 when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act became law.  According to the USDA, that 97 percent of U.S. schools have been compliant ever since.

 

The new changes invoked immediate support and criticism.

 

Advocates for change have said it’s been difficult to meet the 2010 rules.

 

“We have been wanting flexibility so that schools can serve meals that are both nutritious and palatable,” Montague said during Monday’s announcement. “We don’t want kids wasting their meals by throwing them away.”

 

But the change will “roll back much of the progress we have made in the fight against rates of childhood obesity and malnutrition,” countered Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in a statement.  “This interim final rule by the USDA is a slippery slope that will completely undermine school breakfast and lunch programs.”

 

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 national food-related programs, including the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

 

What’s actually changing?

 

According to the USDA’s official announcement, the new rules “will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal program” by “restoring local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium, and milk.”

 

Whole grains:

The USDA will now allow states to grant exemptions to schools experiencing hardship in serving 100 percent of grain products as whole-grain rich for School Year 2017-2018.

 

Sodium:

For School Years 2017-2018 through 2020, schools will not be required to meet Sodium Target 2. Instead, schools that meet Sodium Target 1 will be considered compliant.

 

Milk:

The USDA will now begin the regulatory process for schools to serve 1 percent flavored milk through the school meals programs