Health Care

Six states and D.C. sue Trump administration over school lunches

Six states and D.C. sue Trump administration over school lunches”

When Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced late a year ago that he was rolling back science-based nutrition standards for school meals, it was a blow to student health.

The suit, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, states that the Trump administration weakened federal nutritional standards for breakfasts and lunches served to schoolchildren by rolling back sodium limits and whole grain requirements for school meals and did so without a legally-mandated scientific basis and without giving the public proper notice or opportunity to comment.

In [rolling back school meal standards, ] the USDA unlawfully departed from Congress's unambiguous directive that it determine school meal requirements based on nutrition science, and instead relied on impermissible and unsound extra-statutory factors such as students' perceived taste preferences for less healthy foods and some schools' desire for operational "flexibility".

Ms. James said 99 percent of those students qualified for free or reduced-price meals before 2017, when the city made school lunches free for all students.

An email seeking comment was sent to the Justice Department.

The 2012 Obama-era rule, advocated by former first lady Michelle Obama, limited sodium intake and increased whole grains served in schools.

The lawsuit was filed by New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Copyright 2019 United Press International, Inc.

Some of the changes finalized by the Trump administration a year ago included allowing schools to offer additional milk flavors and curbing Obama-era regulations on sodium limits.

They also included a five-year delay in the maximum sodium target scheduled for the next school year, and elimination of a sodium target set for the 2022-23 school year.

The case is New York et al v. U.S. Department of Agriculture et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-02956.

When the rollbacks were initially announced in 2017, Perdue said the move was not meant to diminish nutritional standards.

"American children are fed too much sodium-raising their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke", CSPI Vice President for Nutrition Margo Wootan said in a statement. After working for over a decade to improve school nutrition and seeing the tremendous progress that schools are making, it's heartbreaking to see the Trump administration reverse course.

In addition, the Trump administration put the brakes on targets to reduce the amount of salt allowed in school meals.

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