In May of 2017, the School Nutrition Association finally got what it had been lobbying for since Michelle Obama passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010: a less restrictive set of regulations determining what a school can and cannot serve to children.
The newly assigned Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, rolled back on Obama-era regulations on the contents of school lunches, such as the sodium levels, whole grains and types of milk. According to National Public Radio, the Trump Administration found the requirements to be overbearing and counterproductive, with fewer kids buying lunch and more waste leftover from uneaten meals.
“If [the school lunch] makes you sick at the end of the day or kids start getting completely obese from having school lunch everyday… that’s ridiculous,” junior Brianna Garcia said.
The Senate Agricultural Committee came to a compromise in 2016 that preserves many key standards found in the Obama era lunch program, which required schools to serve vegetables and whole grains, and proposed major reductions in salt.
The rollbacks included postponing those sodium reductions set in place, granting exemptions regarding the amount of whole grains for the 2017-2018 school year and allowing schools to serve 1 percent milk.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, under the act, kids eat 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit. Children also consumed more vitamins, fiber and fewer calories. The program reached needier kids, while the amount kids who paid full price stopped buying lunch.
The Center for Disease Control confirmed these improvements, and noted a significant increase of kids eating two or more vegetables and consuming more whole grains.
A report from the United States Government Accountability Office also noted that kids throw less food away, but as many as 1.6 million students stopped buying lunch under the Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act. An increase in the number of students eating lunch for free followed. Thus decreasing the total revenue the School Nutrition Association pulled in from school lunches annually.
“I don’t have time to make myself food in the morning if I want to sacrifice my sleep hours,” Garcia said. “Some kids really can’t afford to make lunch everyday but some of them really need it.”