6 states, DC sue over changes to 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

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

Perdue's recommendations restored local control of guidelines on whole grains, sodium and milk, allowed "flexibility" regarding the use of whole grains, permitted flavored 1 percent milk instead of the non-flavored variety and allowed for greater sodium levels in foods.

"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. "I take seriously the health of all Vermont children, and I will fight back against these nutrition rollbacks".

The changes announced last December 6 affect the federally funded National School Lunch Program, which was started by President Harry Truman in 1946 and feeds more than 30 million, mostly lower-income children.

"If kids aren't eating the food, and it's ending up in the trash, they aren't getting any nutrition - thus undermining the intent of the program", Perdue said, according to a 2017 press release. Those children consumed over 11 million school meals in 2018.

Over the years, Congress has acted to ensure that the National School Lunch Program's nutritional guidelines keep current with the best scientific evidence. The most recent modernization of the Program occurred in 2010 with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

The case is New York et al v. U.S. Department of Agriculture et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-02956. After public notice and extensive comment on the proposed rule - over 133,000 public comments were considered - USDA in 2012 issued new, updated nutritional standards for school meals.

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The 2018 changes still required schools to reduce sodium in foods in stages, but they eliminated a final target for reduced sodium.

The plaintiff states are asking that the sodium and whole-grain standards introduced by the administration be put on hold.

As we've reported, past year the Trump administration gave school lunch administrators more flexibility in serving up refined grains, including white breads, biscuits and white pastas. Further, the 2018 rule was neither issued as a proposed rule nor was the public provided an opportunity to comment on it.

NY was joined in its complaint by California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., which collectively represent about 18 percent of the US population.

The lawsuit was filed by New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

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