The Trump administration had already chipped away at former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature school lunch program with some minor regulatory reforms in years past and now has rolled back even more of the lunch standards, in a move that just happened to be announced on Obama’s birthday, The Hill reported.
USDA modifies school lunch standards
In a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal school lunch program, it was explained that the new reforms were based on commentary and feedback from dietary professionals and school lunch officials across the country.
The changes are intended to provide more flexibility to local school districts — given the presumption that they know what is best for their own children — on what could be offered as an acceptable meal for students.
“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,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in the statement.
He added, “Our proposed changes empower schools to give their very best to our children nationwide and have the potential to benefit nearly 100,000 schools and institutions that feed 30 million children each school day through USDA’s school meal programs.”
Reforms allow for flexibility, local control
At the heart of the recent changes announced by the USDA is more flexibility and variety for local schools in terms of the kinds of fruits and vegetables that could be offered for breakfast and lunch meals.
Obama pushed to institute “healthier” requirements for school lunches with the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, but critics complained of federal overreach, cost, and food waste due to unappetizing meals.
The rule change would also allow for the provision of “a la carte” meals — reducing waste by allowing students to pick and choose what they do and don’t want to eat. It also allows for customizable meals that may vary based on certain grade levels of students or different schools within a district.
The reforms also include streamlining of the bureaucratic process in the school lunch program with an eye toward doing away with time- and resource-consuming paperwork and allowing a greater focus on the actual provision of meals.
A purposeful slight?
Of course, critics are gonna criticize, with the main complaint being that the reforms will allow some students to choose less nutritious meals, such as burgers and french fries or pizza — should the district offer such options.
Some on the left, however, such as Slate and The New York Times, among others, who also viewed the announcement of the changes on Obama’s birthday through a partisan lens and suspected it to be a purposeful slight to humiliate the former first lady.
A spokeswoman for the USDA disputed that narrative and said the department had no deliberate intentions to roll out the reforms on Obama’s 56th birthday.