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USDA Secretary Implements Major Changes To National School Lunch Program

If you’re a parent, pay close attention. There’s some big changes coming to the food that your child’s school will be allowed to serve.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a proclamation that schools won’t have to meet some specific guidelines relating to salt, whole grains, and milk for the upcoming 2017-2018 school year.

Under the announced changes, states can grant exemptions to schools struggling to find a whole range of whole-grain products to sell to students, extends the deadline for schools to lower sodium content in food, allows for the sale of previously banned flavored 1% milk, and allows for more time to prepare foods.

The move aims to keep school lunches somewhat nutritious while increasing their appeal to students. It also allows items like chocolate milk and white bread back onto lunch menus and rolls back standards for whole grains, milk, and sodium set in 2012.

Congress’s appropriations bill, which is scheduled for a vote and likely passage some time this week, includes these exact alterations to USDA policy enforcement by barring federal funds from being used to pay government officials to implement the 2012 regulations, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Opponents of the new changes, including American Heart Association chief executive Nancy Brown, question the need for the rollback of previous guidelines since 99% of schools nationwide already comply with them. The director of the White House’s domestic policy council during the Obama Administration, Cecilia Munoz, also questioned “what the rationale is going to be for adding more salt to foods or moving away from whole grains to more refined grains.”

Many school districts and cafeteria workers disagree, claiming that the rules are expensive, heavily restrictive, and lead to the discarding of lots of whole grains and produce that children refuse to eat, as many are more accustomed to more refined foods.

“This gives us some flexibility to occasionally serve food that looks like what students would have at home, to try to get more students eating school meals,” said Michael Rosenberger, executive director of the Dallas school district’s food and child nutrition program, to the Wall Street Journal. “This is not a step backward.”

How do you feel about these new changes? Will they be better for schools and your kids?