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The Trump Administration Proposes School Lunch Policy Changes

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Dan Gold / Unsplash

Angie Leung, Copy Editor

In mid-January, the Trump administration proposed policies allowing schools to cut the number of vegetables served in school lunches, allowing for more foods such as pizza, burgers, fries and sweets to flood lunch menus. 

The administration’s attempts to lower nutritional standards for school lunches across the nation were an effort to overturn the strict federational restrictions set by the Obama administration, a distinct reform championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama. The policy proposals arose on Jan. 17 — Michelle Obama’s birthday. 

Under the Obama Administration

Under the Obama administration, the National School Lunch Program required school cafeterias to increase the number of fruits and vegetables served, while putting drastic reductions on trans fat and sodium. 

Louis Hansel / Unsplash

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps proposed changes to the aforementioned policy that would increase the availability of foods high in calories, trans and saturated fat and sodium, and lower the requirements for leafy greens and fruits. He claimed that the changes are an attempt to offset food waste from the Obama administration’s school lunch policies. 

A study conducted by the Department of Agriculture, however, found that there was no significant food waste during the implementation of Obama-era rules, and that the rules, on the contrary, increased school lunch participation. 

Backlash to the Trump Administration’s National School Lunch Program Changes

The National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity and the School Nutrition Association have taken an open stance against the administration’s measures. A coalition of six states, including California, additionally challenged the Department of Agriculture’s proposals in court, claiming that the new rules would be a health risk to children. 

Politics and industry pressure should not interfere with what is best for children’s health”

— Mary Story, Member of USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

The proposals, projected to affect 30 million students who have mostly lower income, were introduced to the Federal Register in late January, and the public will have 60 days to comment on them. 

An unanticipated consequence of the changes to the National School Lunch Program may be generations whose poor eating habits as children continue into adulthood. Considering this, the serious health risks associated with the policy change pose a strain on medical systems, which, to Trump’s efforts to repeal ObamaCare, might just come back to bite.