Illinois Among States Suing Over School Lunch Changes

Illinois Among States Suing Over School Lunch Changes

A lawsuit filed by attorneys general from seven states says the weakened federal nutrition standards for school meals are putting kids at greater risk of health problems linked to diet.

The government "significantly weakened" nutritional standards for sodium and whole grains, according to the lawsuit, without giving the public a chance to comment on them and in opposition to nutritional requirements for school meals set by Congress.

The lawsuit was filed after the Trump administration late past year scaled back contested school lunch standards implemented under the Obama administration, including one requiring that only whole grains be served.

Established in 1946, the National School Lunch Program is a federally subsidized program that provides students with healthy, balanced meals in schools at low- or no-cost.

In 2012, the Obama administration toughened standards on nutrition that schools had been required to follow in order to receive federal reimbursement for free and reduced-price meals for low-income students.

When the department issued its rule in December, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said USDA was providing school districts with flexibility as they implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The coalition contends that the USDA's rollback of sodium limits and whole grain requirements for school meals, lacks legally-mandated scientific basis, and was adopted without public notice and opportunity to comment.

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"The Trump administration has undermined key health benefits for our children. with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law", New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

Copyright 2019 United Press International, Inc. In Vermont, 46,000 children participated in the school lunch program and 25,000 children participated in the breakfast program past year.

The first lawsuit, filed in the District of Maryland by Democracy Forward, was brought on behalf of two health advocacy groups, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Healthy School Food Maryland.

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.

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. The USDA's own data also showed that virtually all schools (99 percent) were already meeting both standards.

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