6 states, Washington, DC, sue Trump administration against "weakened" school meal standards


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By Associated press

NEW YORK – Six states and the federal district of Columbia on Wednesday filed lawsuits against the Ministry of Agriculture, saying it had weakened nutritional standards at school lunches and lunches when it had relaxed salt and refined grain requirements last year.

The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court asked a judge to rescind the amendments, claiming that they had been carried out arbitrarily and capriciously.

According to the lawsuit, the government "has significantly weakened" the nutritional standards for sodium and whole grains, without giving the public an opportunity to comment on them and in opposition to the nutritional requirements for school lunches set by Congress.

States and D.C. stated that standards should be based on the recommendations of the US Government's "Dietary Guidelines for Americans", the National Academy of Sciences, and scientific research on child nutrition.

The USDA School Lunch Program offers inexpensive or free lunches and lunches in public schools and other institutions. Last year, it served about 30 million children.

An e-mail requesting comments was sent to the Department of Justice.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has led the lawsuit in the civil courts, stating in a statement that more than one million New York children depend on meals daily.

"The Trump Administration has compromised the essential benefits to the health of our children – the standards for salt and whole grains in school meals – with a deliberate disregard for science, the opinion of experts and the law, "she said.

Other applicants are California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

The lawsuit was filed after the Trump administration, at the end of last year, reduced the contentious school meal standards implemented under the Obama administration, including requiring only whole grains are served.

At the time of the overthrow, the Ministry of Agriculture said that it wanted to reduce the bureaucracy that required schools to obtain special exemptions to be able to serve a selection of foods based on refined grains.

The changes made by the Trump administration also made it possible to use low-fat chocolate milk again, in cases where only fat-free milk was allowed to be flavored.

The ministry said that 20% of schools last year had requested exemptions from the whole grain rule, most often to be able to serve pasta, tortillas, biscuits and oatmeal.

The 2018 changes still required schools to reduce sodium in foods in stages, but they eliminated the ultimate goal of reducing sodium.

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