The Trump administration has unveiled a proposal that would allow schools to cut the amount of fruits and vegetables served at breakfast and lunches. This could clear the way for cafeterias to sell students more burgers, pizza and other starchy foods, a trend that former first lady Michelle Obama spent years trying to fight. The plan was unveiled on Mrs. Obama’s birthday.
Under the new plan, schools would be permitted to decrease the amount of fruit in breakfasts served outside of the cafeteria from one full cup to a half cup, while the remaining calories could be filled with sweet pastries. As for lunches, potatoes could be served as a vegetable every day and greasy foods would be allowed to replace healthier options.
From The New York Times:
The proposal is the [Agricultural Department’s] second attempt to roll back nutrition standards promoted by Mrs. Obama…The department finalized a rule in December 2018 that gave school meal providers permission to serve flavored low-fat milk in the national school lunch program and school breakfast program. That rule stipulated that only half of the weekly grains must be whole grain, and it gave providers more time to reduce sodium in meals.
According to The Washington Post, the potato lobby had been pushing this proposal. “Potatoes are a nutrient dense vegetable,” said Kam Quarles, the chief executive of the National Potato Council. “[They] contain more potassium than a banana and 30 percent of the daily value of vitamin C along with 3 grams of protein, fiber and carbohydrates that school children need to perform their best at school.”
The proposal was also applauded by conservatives and other food companies, who assert that the strict nutrition standards lead to excessive waste and financial loss. They believe that schoolchildren often avoid the healthy foods in favor of more greasy and starchy concoctions. In The Times, Jonathan Butcher, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, asserted that “clearly, no one wants kids to be served unhealthy foods,” but if nutrition requirements lead to children not eating the food offered, the standards are pointless.
In response, nutritionists and other advocates condemned the move, saying that it will only fuel the country’s childhood obesity problem.
“If those students don’t have access to the nutritious options provided by the school, they may turn to low cost, processed foods that are high in calories but sparse in nutrients. Immediate effects of this type of diet include weight gain and poor physical health,” writes Dr. Rachel Borton in The Hill. “Long-term impacts range from increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a slew of other unfortunate health outcomes.”