Trump administration seeks rollback of school lunch nutrition rules

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has taken another step toward dismantling Michelle Obama’s school nutrition guidelines, proposing a new rule that could lead to more pizza and fries and less fruit and a smaller variety of vegetables on school menus.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who announced the rule changes on Obama’s birthday Friday, said they were needed to give schools more flexibility and reduce waste while still providing nutritious and appetizing meals.

But child nutrition advocates saw it differently.

“What a shameless, embarrassing capitulation to lobbyists at the expense of American children and their well-being,” said Sam Kass, who served as executive director of Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to combat childhood obesity.

Under the proposal, schools would be allowed to cut the amount of certain types of vegetables served at lunch, and legumes offered as a meat alternative also could be counted as part of the vegetable requirement. The proposal also would allow schools to reduce the amount of fruit at on-the-go breakfast served outside the cafeteria.

Gay Anderson, president of the School Nutrition Association, said that while the nutrition standards had been a success overall, some requirements led to reduced participation in the program, higher costs and waste.

“USDA’s school meal flexibilities are helping us manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes,” Anderson said in a statement.

The school meals program serves about 30 million students, most of them from low-income families.

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

The proposal would give schools greater flexibility in offering entrees for a la carte purchases, which Schwartz said 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.”

Carole Feldman is an Associated Press writer.

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