States Sue Trump Administration Over Changes To Obama-Era School Lunch Standards

Leslie Hanson
April 6, 2019

Six states and the District of Columbia sued the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, saying it weakened nutritional standards in school breakfasts and lunches when it relaxed the requirements affecting salt and refined grains previous year.

The USDA school lunch program provides low-priced or free lunches and breakfasts in public schools and other institutions, and served an estimated 30 million children in 2018. In late 2017, USDA issued an interim final rule that retained the initial sodium target for the 2018-19 school year, delaying implementation of the second reduction target until 2019-20.

Joining Attorney General Donovan in the lawsuit are the Attorneys General of New York, California, The District of Columbia, Illinois, Minnesota and Vermont.

The department has said 20% of schools past year applied for exemptions to the whole-grain rule, most frequently so they could serve pasta, tortillas, biscuits and grits.


The move weakened standards set during the Obama administration aimed at serving more nutritious and fiber-dense whole grains, which are a key part of a healthy diet. "The Trump rollbacks are recklessly putting kids' health in jeopardy". The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of NY. "The "flexibilities" the administration is offering [schools] are both unnecessary and undermining", Laura MacCleery, policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told me. But according to two lawsuits filed this week in federal court, his agency's actions may also have been illegal. Previously, all grain foods served to kids having to contain at least half whole grains. "When I think about what policies are available to move the needle on the health of kids, this is the big one", MacCleery says. 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.

"SNA appreciates USDA's efforts to preserve strong standards to benefit students while addressing long-standing challenges to ensure they choose and consume healthy school meals", said SNA President Gay Anderson in a statement.

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.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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