School Lunch with Sonny Perdue

School Nutrition Roll Back Ruled Out

With Sonny Perdue at the helm of the USDA, the Trump administration was ready for white bread and salt to make a comeback in school lunches. Back in 2018, the agency issued rules to roll back school nutrition standards for whole grains and sodium. But yesterday, a federal court nixed it. Apparently, the agency broke the rules for making rules.

No U-Turns

The problem was pretty straightforward. The process for making rules like this are spelled out in federal laws. The agency has to publish a proposal, ask for comments, and then issue final rules. But in this case, it seems that the administration simply rolled back an interim final rule without bothering to go through the process of creating a new rule as the law requires. U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel wrote in his ruling:

The final rule is not a logical outgrowth of the interim final rule, so it must be vacated.

There is a fundamental difference between delaying compliance standards – which indicates that school meals will still eventually meet those standards – and eliminating those standards altogether.

This ruling will make it harder for schools to serve up white bread and salty junk food.

A Difficult Time for School Nutrition

This development comes during harsh times for school nutrition. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, schools are having difficulty getting food to students who need it. Most schools are closed and school districts are struggling to find creative ways of keeping their lunch and breakfast programs alive. Workers in school food services are falling sick, with a number of deaths reported. So under these emergency circumstances, school lunch programs have gained extra leeway on nutrition standards, just to get through the crisis. Even with that, some districts have had to stop their programs.

So the court ruling won’t really have any effect until schools and their food services get back to normal operations.

Just Because

Good nutrition for kids seems to be a stupid battleground for petty politics. Michelle Obama’s success in raising school nutrition standards was about as popular as anything in the realm of politics can be these days. But if it has a connection to Obama, the current administration seems determined to undo it. The branding is what matters – not the substance – so the roll back of school nutrition will likely roll on past this speed bump until the next change in administrations.

Click here, here, and here for more on the latest in the drive to lower school nutrition standards.

School Lunch with Sonny Perdue, USDA photograph by Lance Cheung / Wikimedia

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April 15, 2020

One Response to “School Nutrition Roll Back Ruled Out”

  1. April 16, 2020 at 4:35 am, Mary-Jo said:

    👏. IMO, reverting back to poorer dietary nutrition-rich offerings was, well ‘backwards’, certainly poor timing as the effects, even full momentum of the positive changes hasn’t even had a chance to take root and flourish! I especially liked how better school nutrition served children who come from lower SES backgrounds — who don’t have even the option of being served balanced diets. I often think of the poem by Miller Williams, ‘Of History and Hope’ when society somehow acts in ways to move forward in just ways for all, especially our children. Optimal diets and nutrition is a ‘long gift’ all children deserve.🌷☀️