In 2010 the Obama administration implemented the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act as a guideline for school meals. Seven years later it was rolled back by the Trump administration. But now, a coalition of states and advocacy organizations have managed to restore the 2010 deal after a federal district judge ruled in their favour.
Former president Barack Obama’s 2010 school meal regulations included guidelines that 50% of grain products should contain whole grains, and that fruit and vegetables should be served daily. A steady lowering of sodium levels was another important stipulation.
The National School Breakfast and Lunch Program in the United States feeds around 30 million low-income children daily.
According to Margo G. Wootan – vice president for Nutrition at the Center the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) organization – too much sodium in a child’s diet increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
But the Agriculture Department under the Trump administration argued that the regulations placed a financial stress on schools. A 2017 interim ruling allowed schools more time to address the sodium issues. It also allowed states to grant waivers on whole grain guidelines if they could prove financial struggles.
An Agriculture Department statement at the time read: “This interim final rule addresses significant challenges faced by local operators regarding milk, whole grains, and sodium requirements and their impact on food development and reformulation, menu planning, and school foodservice procurement and contract decisions.”
Those who opposed the rollback argued that a relaxing of the regulations would result in children eating high-fat junk food which would deprive them of nutrition and could lead to obesity and other diseases.
Our victory ensures that school lunches will be healthier for 30 million children. pic.twitter.com/Vvyu9yr6ei
— Democracy Forward (@DemocracyFwd) April 13, 2020
Fighting back to get healthy school meals
The CSPI were joined by nearly 60 public health and nutrition organizations with the goal of ensuring that the Obama-era school meal regulations were reinstated.
And their commitment and effort paid off this month when District Judge George J. Hazel ruled in their favor. It was found that when the 2017 interim regulation was implemented in 2018, there were irregularities.
It’s now surely up to the government to help ensure that poorer schools are able to meet the nutrition standards first initiated during the Obama administration.
As Attorney general of New York, Letitia James put it, “Access to healthy and nutritious food should never be determined by your ZIP code or your socioeconomic status.”
Image Credit: Ian Allenden