The Trump administration announced Monday that it had taken a major bite out of Michelle Obama’s legacy.
“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,” Perdue said at a school in Leesburg, Va., where he and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., traveled to make the announcement — and eat a school lunch.
“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, noting that the law approved in 2010 resulted in many students not eating what schools served.
Under the new rule, the Department of Agriculture will postpone further sodium reductions that were scheduled to take effect for at least three years. The rule allows schools to serve non-whole grain rich products occasionally and 1 percent flavored milk. The rule takes effect with the 2017-2018 school year.
“I wouldn’t be as big as I am today without flavored milk,” Perdue told reporters.
“We know meals cannot be nutritious if they’re not consumed, if they’re thrown out,” he added. “We have to balance sodium and whole grain content with palatability.”
Perdue also noted that the rule implemented as part of the former first lady’s anti-obesity drive had unforeseen impacts.
“A perfect example is in the South, where the schools want to serve grits,” Perdue said. “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.”
Roberts said Congress tried, but failed, to solve the problem of lunches that were healthy but not eaten.
“The policies that Secretary Perdue has declared here today will provide the flexibility to ensure that schools are able to serve nutritious meals that children will actually eat. Because that is really what these programs are about: serving meals to hungry children so that they can learn and grow,” he said
“Try eating a biscuit made with whole grains,” Roberts added. “It just doesn’t work!”
The School Nutrition Association praised the new rule.
“School Nutrition Association is appreciative of Secretary Perdue’s support of school meal programs in providing flexibility to prepare and serve healthy meals that are appealing to students,” CEO Patricia Montague said in a statement.
“School nutrition professionals are committed to the students they serve and will continue working with USDA and the Secretary to strengthen and protect school meal programs.”
The Department of Agriculture estimated that school food requirements cost states and schools about $1.22 billion in the federal 2015 fiscal year.