Trump administration adjusts Obama’s public school lunch policies

The new policies allows for more a la carte items and less vegetables.

Trump administration adjusts Obama's public school lunch policies

COURTESY OF USDA.GOV

Jordan Roller, Features Editor

*This article was intended for publication in our March print issue, which will no longer be distributed due to Covid-19 school closures. 

The Trump administration is rolling back several regulations placed on the food served at public schools, which will provide schools with more flexibility when creating their menus. The changes will allow schools to serve less fruit and more meat during breakfast, and they will permit schools to offer more a la carte items, which are brand-name packaged foods like a can of Sprite or a bag of Lays.  Also, while schools will still be required to serve a variety of vegetables, the quantity of each vegetable subgroup schools must serve will be reduced. 

The Trump administration hopes these changes will reduce food waste. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 21% of the calories available in school lunches are wasted. Under current regulations, schools are often required to serve kids a certain amount of fruits or vegetables regardless of whether the child wants to eat them, so those apple slices often end up in the trash can. 

The current regulations placed on school lunches are largely a result of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This law required schools to serve more whole grains, offer kids fruit and vegetables every day, reduce the amount of sodium in school food, and reduce portion sizes to promote a healthy diet.  In Fairfax County, the advocacy group Real Food for Kids, working closely with school board members, has brought about many changes that have improved the health of school food. In the past decade, 90% of harmful or unnecessary artificial additives have been removed, and in 2013, soda was removed from vending machines and lunch lines. 

Nationwide, 30 million children participate in lunch programs at public schools, and 22 million of those children come from low-income families who may not be able to afford healthy meals outside of school. Critics worry that the changes will allow schools to serve more potatoes and starchy vegetables, which are cheaper than healthier leafy greens. Another concern is that by allowing more a la carte items, students may begin eating unhealthy dishes like pizza and french fries on a daily basis. 

Regardless of any effects these changes may have nationwide, students are unlikely to see major changes in the food in Madison’s lunch lines. 

“The regulations that President Trump has rolled back will have little to no effect on the food sold here at Madison,” said Madison Kitchen Manager Jody James. “In Fairfax County, a majority of elementary schools have salad bars, where fresh fruits and vegetables are served daily. In high schools, we will continue to offer fresh fruits daily, usually a choice of two, and a hot and cold vegetable.”