Donald Trump administration to relax school meal rules tackling childhood obesity

Harriet Agerholm
Michelle Obama campaigned for rules restricting levels of salt, fat and sugar in school meals: Getty

Donald Trump’s administration is set to relax rules on the nutritional standards of school meals, dismantling legislation Michelle Obama fought hard to introduce during her time as First Lady.

The National School Lunch Programme, which provided nutritionally balanced meals to children for free or for a reduced price, was set up under the Obama administration to help tackle childhood obesity.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was expected to announce a new rule allowing more “regulatory flexibility” in the school lunch programme on Monday at Catoctin Elementary School in Virginia.

He was scheduled to eat lunch with students there, along with Senator Pat Roberts, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

It is unclear what the new rule will entail or what effect it will have on school meals, but conservative Republicans have long sought to reverse the programme. Many have complained about the cost of the initiative, which allowed schools with students living in poverty to provide free breakfasts and lunches without requiring proof of an individual child's family income.

The law required the government to use recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to make meals in schools more nutritious, including more fruit and vegetables and less salt and meat. It also prevented schools from selling snacks high in salt, sugar and fat in cafeterias and vending machines.

Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association, responded to the announcement by saying the regulations had begun to work and that 99 per cent of schools were complying with them.

“Improving children's health should be a top priority for the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), and serving more nutritious foods in schools is a clear-cut way to accomplish this goal,” NBC reported Ms Brown as saying.

“Rather than altering the current path forward, we hope the agency focuses more on providing technical assistance that can help schools get across the finish line, if they haven't done so already.”

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