Several U.S. states sue Trump administration over school lunch rules

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama talks to local elementary school students after picking vegetables with them during the annual fall harvest of the White House Kitchen Garden at the White House in Washington

States sue Trump administration over school lunches

In a complaint filed in Manhattan federal court, the states accused the U.S. Department of Agriculture of acting in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner in easing rules championed by former first lady Michelle Obama to make school lunches healthier. It aims to overturn changes in standards for sodium and whole grains.

A coalition of state attorneys general is suing the Trump administration for weakening the federal nutrition standards for school meals that are fed to about 30 million children across the country.

The lawsuit brought by New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington, D.C., argues that the rollbacks go against the nutrition requirements set by Congress and were put into effect without a required public comment period.

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"A majority of school meal programs struggle with students' regional and cultural preferences for specific refined grains such as white rice, pasta, grits or tortillas", the School Nutrition Association said in comments to USDA in January 2018.

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When the rollbacks were initially announced in 2017, Perdue said the move was not meant to diminish nutritional standards.

"Over a million children in New York - especially those in low-income communities and communities of color - depend on the meals served daily by their schools to be healthy, nutritious, and prepare them for learning", New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

They also included a five-year delay in the maximum sodium target scheduled for the next school year, and elimination of a sodium target set for the 2022-23 school year.

Both lawsuits center around a new rule issued by the Trump administration's U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which slashed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act's (HHFKA) whole-grain-rich standard, meaning that now only half of the grain-based foods served in school meals have to be whole-grain-rich.

Excessive sodium intake has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, while relatively higher refined grain consumption has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity. And that by rolling back nutritional requirements, the Trump administration is "attacking the health and the safety of our children", particularly those who live in poverty. After working for over a decade to improve school nutrition and seeing the tremendous progress that schools are making, it's heartbreaking to see the Trump administration reverse course.

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