The Trump Administration is yet again opening the door for less healthful options to be served more often in school cafeterias. A new rule proposes more flexibility, but in reality, it could mean more pizza and French fries and fewer vegetables and fruits being served in schools across the country.
The National School Lunch Program provides meals to more than 30 million kids every year. After decades of serving unhealthy meals that contributed to the obesity crisis, the nutrition standards were finally in line with the dietary guidelines. And again, the current administration is undercutting that progress by insisting school food authorities need more flexibility.
Providing healthy food in schools is so important. A vast body of research shows that improved nutrition in schools leads to increased focus and attention, improved test scores and better classroom behavior. Access to healthy food in schools is especially important for students of color from underinvested communities who may not have the same access to healthy foods outside of school.
In 2018, the administration rolled back standards on whole grains, sodium and milk. (That change prompted a lawsuit by some school food advocates and states.) This time, the administration is targeting vegetables, fruits and serving certain entrees—like pizza—outside of a meal.
Overall, the proposed rule focuses on increasing flexibility for school nutrition professionals, but we need to focus on the children receiving these meals. We’ll be tracking this issue closely and will provide updates on opportunities to raise your voice in support of healthy, nutritious food for kids!