Freedom of food

Emily Bruinsma, Copy Editor

Throughout her years in the White House, former first lady Michelle Obama promoted healthy eating in an attempt to minimize childhood obesity. The Obama administration passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which increased the amount of children eligible for the free and reduced lunch program and set stricter standards for the nutritional value of school meals.

However, the Trump administration now plans to remove some of these standards, believing many children would prefer to not eat anything rather than eat the healthy options provided by their schools.

According to NPR, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals. If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition — thus undermining the intent of the program.”

The Trump administration plans to revise the standards involving whole grain requirements, sodium content, and milk options. The USDA will exempt schools from the whole grain requirements if they are finding it difficult to meet them, sodium limits will be postponed to give the school nutrition industry time to adjust, and one percent flavored milk will be allowed in schools again.  

Many students are excited for this change. Mallory Obenauf, senior, said, “I think it is good to loosen the restrictions on school lunches because most students don’t eat the healthier options anyways. If someone wants to eat unhealthy food, they will still eat it outside of school. Keeping school lunches healthy is not really effective.”

There have been large amounts of controversy surrounding the decision to remove some of these requirements. Many feel that the changes are being made too late to have any real impact. Society has already adjusted to accommodate to these standards, so it is unnecessary to remove them.

Marlene Schwartz, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, told CNN, “My impression has been that the food companies and the school service professionals have been working extremely hard for the last five years to try and improve things and meet these standards. The reformulations have been done.”
An update on the nutritional quality, cost and acceptability of school meals and children’s diets will be released by 2018, and the situation will continue to be reassessed by government officials until then.