US Department of Agriculture / Flickr michelle obama school...
US Department of Agriculture / Flickr

Donald Trump hasn’t started using America’s school lunches to get rid of his stock of unwanted cold “hamberders.” Yet. However, he did roll back nutritional guidelines, allowing schools to load up kid’s plates with foods filled with salt, highly processed ingredients, and essentially everything that adults try to avoid when selecting their own meals. Or at least, adults other than Trump.

As The Hill reports, six states and the District of Columbia have joined together to sue Trump for undermining the health of millions of school children and depriving many of what could be their single nutritious meal of the day. Previous changes to school meal programs were mostly based on the idea of meeting current ideas of what constitutes healthy eating and increasing recognition of the importance of school foods for families whose choices were limited at home. But in 2018, Trump rolled back standards that had been in place since 2012, making school meals actively worse.

At first glance, there seems little reason for Trump’s action. Allowing school districts to serve meals that are loaded up with salt and made with processed flours rather than whole grains doesn’t result in better outcomes for children, and it doesn’t even save money for the schools. However, there is a vital reason why Trump cancelled the program: It was started under the guidance of Michelle Obama, who championed it and made it a signature issue. So, naturally, killing it was a high priority for Trump.

But Republicans have to admit that in making food worse for children, Trump is following a traditional Republican position championed by the man who taught America how to hate with a smile. In his first budget, Ronald Reagan drastically increased defense spending and ripped money away from programs to help children and the poor. In the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981, that included included cutting the Federal School Lunch Program by 25 percent in a single year. The bill also dropped provisions that required that school lunches provide roughly a third of a child’s daily nutrition and gave districts permission to “exhaust all alternatives” in meeting relaxed requirements without raising costs. This led directly to school districts counting pickle relish and ketchup as vegetables.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the lawsuit against Trump’s Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to restore the higher standards, pointed out that now, as then, those most affected by the weakened standards are people of color—including a million children in New York alone who “depend on the meals served daily by their schools to be healthy, nutritious, and prepare them for learning.”

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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