Sure, we know that Donald Trump believes in de-regulation.
And that he dislikes vegetables himself.
But partisan issues aside, perhaps we can all agree that deciding to green-light a rule change to lessen nutritional standards for school breakfasts and lunches to substitute more fries and pizza for fresh fruit and vegetables.
A new rule for the Food and Nutrition Service, part of the federal Department of Agriculture, happened to coincide – or perhaps was intentionally launched? – on Michelle Obama’s birthday, wiping out a signature achievement for the former First Lady for student health through balanced meals.
It’s a smallish issue, simple really, but one indicative of a White House that says one thing and does another, that finds reason to undercut active health measures, that finds the ideology of choice only in those areas where his predecessor has moved.
The Trump obsession to wipe out any achievements by the Obama administration is without bounds – even at the cost of children’s health.
According to USDA Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps, who is responsible for administering nutritional programs feeding 30 million students at 99,000 schools, the new proposals would allow schools to cut the amount of vegetables and fruits and allow more pizza, burgers and fries.
That would suit the potato industry just fine, acknowledged the National Potato Council, which said: “potatoes are a nutrient dense vegetable, which 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.”
Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for Center for Science in the Public Interest, told The Washington Post that the potato lobby has been pushing for this change, and that potato growers were behind a change that happened quietly last March making it easier to substitute potatoes for some fruit in weekly breakfast menus. The School Nutrition Association, the trade group for school food-service manufacturers and school food professionals, also has frequently advocated for less stringent nutritional requirements.
Previously, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue weakened nutrition standards for whole grain, nonfat milk and sodium, citing food waste and non-participation as rationales. The rule provided the option to offer chocolate milk to children participating in school meal programs, and allowed other shifts that allowed foods that are saltier, fattier or more processed in the name of palatability.
Under the new rule, the amount of fruit could be cut in half, with those calories filled with sweet pastries and granola bars.
The Post reports that kids can get more than half of their daily calories from school meals. About two-thirds of the 30 million children who eat school meals every day qualify as low-income and are getting meals free or for a reduced price. Low-income kids are disproportionately affected by obesity and are less likely to be fed healthy meals at home, so the nutritional makeup of school meals is impactful.
Apparently, the White House has not heard that the country is facing obesity problems – or it doesn’t care. For that matter, the administration has backed ruled that could end free school lunches for about 500,000 children.
Once again, one is left trying to balance fervor for “pro-Life” campaigns, or who promises “a beautiful health system” while trampling Obamacare, with what happens once children are born and trying to get through their day.
Even Trump might have heard that someone else had said, “Let them eat cake.” He thought it was literal.