Attorneys general from six states and Washington D.C., filed a lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture on Wednesday, saying it weakened nutritional standards in school meals.
The suit, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, states that the Trump administration weakened federal nutritional standards for breakfasts and lunches served to schoolchildren by rolling back sodium limits and whole grain requirements for school meals and did so without a legally-mandated scientific basis and without giving the public proper notice or opportunity to comment.
“The Trump administration has undermined key health benefits for our children — standards for salt and whole grains in school meals — with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law,” James said in a statement.
The USDA school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches and breakfasts in public schools and other institutions, and served an estimated 30 million children in 2018.
In 2012, the Obama administration toughened standards on nutrition that schools had been required to follow in order to receive federal reimbursement for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students.
The Department of Agriculture implemented rollbacks to the Obama administration guidelines in 2018 after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said some food was “ending up in the trash.”
Perdue’s recommendations restored local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium and milk, allowed “flexibility” regarding the use of whole grains, permitted flavored 1 percent milk instead of the non-flavored variety and allowed for greater sodium levels in foods.
The lawsuit, which was joined by attorneys general from California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington, D.C., requests that the school lunch standards be based on the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” the National Academy of Sciences and scientific research regarding children’s nutrition.
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