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The Trump administration moved on Friday to decimate the school nutrition standards pushed by Michelle Obama during her time in the White House, a move that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) took on the former first lady’s birthday.
The USDA said that the new proposals would give “school nutrition professionals … more flexibility to serve appetizing and healthy meals that appeal to their students’ preferences and subsequently reduce food waste. The proposed rule also encourages state and local operators to focus resources on feeding children rather than administrative paperwork.”
“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. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.
“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. Providing children with wholesome, nutritious food is part of our motto at USDA, which is to ‘do right and feed everyone.’”
The USDA said that the first proposed rule aimed to ensure that kids still receive quality nutrition while at the same time giving flexibility to local school districts to serve kids food that they actually are willing to eat in an effort to reduce waste. The USDA said they planned to accomplish this by:
- Allowing local schools to offer more vegetable varieties, while keeping plenty of veggies in each meal; Making it easier for schools to offer school lunch entrees for a la carte purchase, thereby reducing food waste;
- Providing schools options to customize meal patterns to best serve children in different grades or smaller schools who eat together;
- Supporting a more customized school breakfast environment by letting schools adjust fruit servings and making it simpler to offer meats/meat alternates, ultimately encouraging breakfast options outside the cafeteria so students can start their day with a healthy breakfast; and
- Shifting to a performance-focused administrative review process that is less burdensome and time consuming, which would increase collaboration with operators to improve program integrity.
The USDA said that the second proposal aims to reform the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which serves millions of at risk kids during the summer months when they do not have access to meals at school. The proposal offers more local control by:
- Providing more flexibilities in choosing meal offerings, meal service times, and allowing children to take certain nonperishable food items offsite;
- Granting tested and proven flexibilities that make it easier for sponsors and sites to participate by reducing paperwork and streamlining the application process for high-performing, experienced operators;
- Balancing program integrity and flexibility with stronger monitoring to help sponsors maximize their resources; and
- Clarifying performance standards and eligibility requirements for sites.
The New York Times reported that Democrats on Capitol Hill believed that the Trump administration intentionally rolled this out on Michelle Obama’s birthday, even though a USDA spokesperson said that was not the case, and that “Democrats reacted furiously.”
Far-left Democrat Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA) fumed over the announcement, writing on Twitter: “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.”
Far-left Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN) fired back by suggesting that the government should provide all the food that kids eat: “Counter proposal: make *healthy* school meals universal year-round. The #UniversalSchoolMealsProgramAct will guarantee breakfast, lunch, and dinner for every student in America.”