President Trump hasn’t been able to lock down a travel ban, or repeal Obamacare, but he has succeeded in one area: changing school food.
After only six days on the job, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue moved to stall one of former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature accomplishments: stricter nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches, which feed more than 31 million children.
On Monday, Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s new Agriculture secretary, announced he would loosen restrictions on federally funded school lunch programs — current rules require schools to serve more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables to millions of children while limiting salt and fat. The push is part of Mrs. Obama’s well-known initiative to help children eat more healthy meals.
Also on Monday, Peace Corps employees said they had been told to stop using the name of Mrs. Obama’s 2-year-old “Let Girls Learn” initiative, CNN reported. Peace Corps workers said they’d been told that as a program unto itself, “Let Girls Learn,” was ending.
Mrs. Obama’s office did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
In his first major act in Trump’s Cabinet, Perdue, a former Georgia governor, announced the nutrition rollback at an elementary school in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Leesburg, Va. Ahead of the announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said a new rule would provide “regulatory flexibility.”
Cafeteria directors were especially appreciative of Perdue’s decision to delay the scheduled sodium mandate to 2020. The regulation would have required cafeterias to cut the maximum amount of sodium allowed in lunches by half. Critics said that the regulation would have been too onerous, with only 935 milligrams of sodium allowed in elementary school lunches.
Director Bridget O’Brien Wood of Buffalo Public Schools noted that none of her colleagues wanted to fully reverse the changes made by Obama, but rather tinker to with them to find a balance between nutrition and taste.
“No one’s abandoning the idea,” O’Brien Wood said of Obama’s efforts to reduce childhood obesity. “I think we’ve had to look at what’s not working, and change things from there.”
Not everyone is happy with the USDA rollback. Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook blasted Perdue’s decision as a blow to the campaign against childhood obesity.
“Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should,” Cook said in a statement, according to USA Today. “The president’s fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn’t let Colonel Sanders and McDonald’s run the school cafeteria.”