Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue released a plan Monday to roll back the strict health standards for school meals championed in the last administration by Michelle Obama. Requirements for reduced sodium and mostly whole grains have been relaxed, and the title of the USDA’s press release declared that the plan would “Make School Meals Great Again.”
Of course, no change has been made to fruit and vegetable requirements, and the allowances for items such as salt and milk haven’t changed much. One percent milk is now allowed, rather than just skim, and the cap on salt for high schoolers moved up from 1,080 milligrams to 1,420. And thankfully for schools in the South, rescinding the requirement for whole grains allows them to have real grits again.
The nutritional changes are much less dramatic than is the reaction to them. On Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Perdue is charged with “freez[ing] Michelle Obama’s plan to fight childhood obesity,” in a story describing school-lunch policing as “one of former first lady Michelle Obama’s signature accomplishments.” Around thirty parents with nothing better to do protested Perdue’s announcement at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va, chanting “healthy kids, healthy food,” and one yelled “Give a damn!” as a smiling Perdue left in an SUV.
Despite their best efforts, the wonk bloggers at the Post can’t help but make the former first lady’s food guidelines sound terrible. They describe “replacing cafeteria staples such as conventional pizza with salt-reduced, whole-grain versions” and students bringing in “contraband salt shakers.” And, in what the Post calls a “second blow to the Obama administration’s nutritional legacy,” the FDA is also looking to rewrite the Obamacare nutrition-labeling rules that were proving nearly impossible to implement, especially at pizzerias.
Someone should have told them that fighting pizza was always going to be a losing battle.