USDA proposes allowing ‘more flexibility’ in school lunches

Author: Kate Sullivan, CNN
Published: Updated:
A student punches in a personal code for lunch at Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro, Ga. on Tuesday, November 14, 2017. The school lunch workers in the checkout areas monitor the students’ trays to make sure they have a balanced meal and will send them back for additional or different food if not. (Melissa Golden/Redux for CNN/File)

The US Department of Agriculture on Friday announced two new proposals that would give school nutrition professionals “more flexibility” in what they serve to students.

The Washington Post reports the proposals would allow schools to reduce the amount of vegetables and fruits required at lunch and breakfast, and would let schools sell more burgers, pizza and french fries.

The move appears to be the latest attempt by the Trump administration to roll back federal nutrition standards that were championed by former first lady Michelle Obama. The USDA’s school lunch announcement came the same day as Obama’s birthday.

A news release from the agency provided few specifics about the proposed changes, but says the agency would allow schools to offer “more vegetable varieties,” “customize meal patterns” and “adjust fruit servings.” About 30 million students get school meals every day.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement, “Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work.”

Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Post that the rules “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.”

The proposals would allow schools to offer potatoes as a vegetable every day, according to the Post. They would allow schools to reduce the amount of fruit included in breakfasts served outside of the cafeteria from one cup to a half cup, according to the Post. The rest of the calories could be replaced with pastries and granola bars, the newspaper reports.

CNN has reached out to USDA for more specifics on the proposed changes.

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