Hunger-Free Kids Act Changed by New Administration

Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act

In May, President Donald Trump rolled back the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, one of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s programs, which provided healthier options for school cafeterias. This action, along with much of the current president’s decisions, has caused a fair amount of debate.

My first reaction to this news was ‘why would you undo something meant to ensure school-aged kids have a healthy meal?,’ but there are some cafeteria directors that are in favor of the president’s changes.

The specific change made by President Trump loosened the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritional standards for school lunches that was previously established by the Obama administration.

Why are people applauding this change? Some believe that the healthy options presented to kids in school lunches are going to waste because the kids don’t want to eat them. With the looser regulations, some school officials believe that the kids will be more likely to eat what’s given to them.

On the other side of the debate are people that believe the rollback of regulations will impact the strides that have been taken to fight childhood obesity.

Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, said, “We know meals cannot be nutritious if they’re not consumed, if they’re thrown out. We have to balance sodium and whole grain content with palatability.”

Perdue said that the changes to this regulation will allow school food professionals some needed flexibility in creating school menus.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act mandated that school cafeterias include fruit and vegetables at every meal, with whole grains and fat-free milk, if it was flavored. The new regulation allows schools to obtain waivers to serve foods that are at least 50 percent whole grain and serve flavored milk that is 1 percent fat.

David Pelletier, a nutrition policy researcher at Cornell University, said to PolitiFact: “[Perdue] is not changing the standards per se, but he is allowing schools to not follow them. It’s a bit like saying the posted speed limits on the roads remain the same, but you can go as fast as you want.”

Director of the Sweet Home Central School District, Sandy Cocca, said she is in favor of the changes because “It doesn’t put such a chokehold on the items that we can serve. We don’t want to put something on a plate that they’re going to throw out. We want them to consume what’s on the plate.”

Those that oppose the change argue that just because a child is more likely to eat the less healthy foods doesn’t mean that’s what they should be given.

“Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should. The president’s fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn’t let Colonel Sanders and McDonald’s run the school cafeteria,” Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group president said to USA Today.

Better Solutions

Perhaps the best solution to these changes is in the middle ground with a gradual adjustment to a more healthy standard over time. While childhood obesity should be a major concern for people everywhere, maybe it is best to make a more gradual change to school lunches to help students adjust to the new menu over time. Of course, a school lunch is only a small part of the overall picture that contributes to childhood obesity. Sugary cereal, fast food, and a lack of exercise are major factors in making children overweight. And a change to school lunch policy has no impact on families who pack lunches for their kids to take to school.

What do you think about the changes to school hunger-free kids act policy? Does it make sense to you that it’s better kids eat the food they have even if it’s not as healthy as it possibly could be? Or do you think the regulations should be put back to where they were?

If you are interested in healthy tips to use outside of school, take a look at our healthy tips like our Italian Dressing recipe that has good ingredients and tastes great too!

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