Trump Admin's School Lunch Proposal Could Mean Less Fruit, More Pizza

by Leah Groth
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Trump administration made another move toward undoing Michelle Obama’s highly hailed school nutrition guidelines

On Friday, Michelle Obama’s 56th birthday, the Trump Administration made a move to dismantle the school lunch nutrition guidelines that the former first lady championed during her husband Barack Obama’s presidency. If successful, this will result in children beings served less fruits and vegetables and more pizza and fries while at school ⁠— and will likely contribute to the growing childhood obesity epidemic.

According to the Associate Press, the rule change was proposed by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who claimed that the changes were needed in order to give schools “more flexibility” and “reduce waste” while still providing children with nutritious and appetizing meals. In addition to school lunches, they also proposed changes to the summer meals program, which serves 2.6 million children.

“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,” Perdue said.

Per the proposal, schools would be given the power to serve less of certain types of veggies. Additionally, legumes that are considered a “meat alternative” could be counted as their vegetable requirement. For example, potatoes (aka french fries) could be served as a vegetable. They could also reduce the amount of fruits in their on-the-go breakfasts served outside of the cafeteria. Keep in mind that most of the 30 million children fed through the school meals program are from low-income families.

Supporters of the much-needed changes that the former FLOTUS made in the White House are not buying into the reasoning, slamming the administration for both their proposal ⁠— as well as the choice to announce it on her birthday.

“What a shameless, embarrassing capitulation to lobbyists at the expense of American children and their well-being,” Sam Kass, who served as executive director of Michelle’s “Let’s Move” campaign to fight against child obesity. “This country — and its kids — deserve so much better.”

“The Trump administration’s assault on children’s health continues today under the guise of ‘simplifying’ school meals,” Colin Schwartz, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s deputy director for legislative affairs, said in a statement.

Schwartz explained that giving the schools more flexibility 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.”

Geraldine Henchy, director of nutrition policy at the Food Research & Action Center, said the change would result in “a lot more fats, a lot more sodium, a lot more calories,” while Rep. Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said the proposal “threatens the progress we’ve made toward improving nutrition in schools.” Scott pointed out that “for many children, the food they eat at school is their only access to healthy, nutritious meals.”

The American Heart Association even commented on the proposed change, declaring that it would “put children’s health at risk.”

“Healthy school meals help combat childhood obesity and poor cardiovascular health, but they also help establish a foundation for a lifetime of healthy behaviors,” they said.

This is the second move the Trump administration has made to dismantle the progress that Michelle made as part of her “Let’s Move” campaign. In 2018, they dialed back the whole grains that had to be served and also allowed low-fat chocolate milk.