Ag secretary says no grits with bits
By Bob Berwyn
A five-year effort trying to help America’s schoolchildren eat healthier meals will come to an abrupt end, as the Trump administration seeks to make America fat again by rolling back parts of healthy school lunch programs championed by Michelle Obama under the guise of local control.
The previous standards were adopted as part of the Obama administration’s campaign against childhood obesity. It was supported by public-health and environmental organizations.
Nominally, the announcement by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue gives schools more flexibility in addressing guidelines on whole grains, salt and flavored milk-based drinks, but what most of the mainstream media missed in its coverage of the story is that it’s really about favoring the large corporations that provide food service operations at school cafeterias.
The healthy school lunch program was also seen as a step in the direction of more sustainable food system, and was strongly supported by many parents. Instead of giving parents and schools more control, it will give the food factories more power to determine what’s being served in school cafeterias.
Perdue also cited budget constraints as a reason for the rollback, but there’s no evidence that the healthy lunch program was a financial problem. He claimed the requirement for whole grains prevented students in the South from eating their grits and said schools are “experiencing challenges in finding the full range of products they need and that their students enjoy in whole grain-rich form.”
So for now, the Department of Agriculture will give states the power to exempt schools from the requirements, pending a new USDA rule. The rollback also eases requirements to cut back on salt and will allow schools to serve 1 percent flavored milk through the school meals programs.