BUFFALO, N.Y. – President Trump is making school lunches great again, or at least a lot better than they were during the Obama administration.
Trump Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue recently rolled back Obama-era restrictions on whole grains, dairy and sodium to give locals more control over the foods they serve to students, and several school food workers believe it’s making a big difference.
“It doesn’t put such a chokehold on the items that we can serve,” Sandy Cocca, head of food service at Sweet Home Central School District, told The Buffalo News. “We don’t want to put something on a plate that they’re going to throw out. We want them to consume what’s on the plate.”
Regulations imposed through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act put strict limitations on calories, fat, sugar, salt, and other elements of foods served in public schools that participate in the national school lunch or breakfast programs.
Students immediately revolted when the changes went into effect in 2012, with record numbers dropping out of the National School Lunch Program and millions more simply dumping their government lunches in the garbage, EAGnews reports.
The situation resulted in more than 1.4 million students leaving the National School Lunch Program after years of increasing participation, and an estimated increase of more than $1 billion in food waste per year. Plummeting lunchroom revenues convinced hundreds of entire schools to drop the NSLP and its associated regulations to serve students meals they will actually eat.
Students elsewhere launched online petitions calling for changes, and the School Nutrition Association – which represents 50,000 school food workers – lobbied Congress, as well. The complaints, highlighted by students publishing pictures of their gruesome lunches online with the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama, seemingly fell on deaf ears until Trump took office in January.
Immediately after his confirmation hearing, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue relaxed some of the rules, providing much needed relief to school struggling to comply with the onerous regulations.
Now, 1 percent chocolate milk is back on the menu.
Schools are once again free to serve traditional grits and bagels, rather than the whole grain varieties.
And further reductions for salt scheduled for this year are delayed until 2020.
“This letting up a bit is a good thing for schools,” veteran food service director Kim Roll, with the Tonawanda School District, told the News.
The changes, of course, have been less palatable for Michelle Obama, who recently alleged during her annual health summit that the effort to help schools struggling with the restrictions means officials in the Trump administration “don’t care about your kid.”