In April 2019, CSPI and another non-profit organization brought a lawsuit to stop the weakening of nutrition standards for school meals by USDA. A federal court threw out the Trump administration’s nutritional rollbacks for the school meals program.

The Lawsuit

The lawsuit contended that the Trump administration’s USDA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the National School Lunch Act by issuing a final rule that substantially weakened nutrition standards concerning the amount of whole grains and sodium served in school meals. The weakened standards put approximately 30 million children, including approximately 22 million low-income children, at greater risk of health issues associated with diets high in sodium and low in whole grains.

The Plaintiffs asked the court to set aside the rule and to require the agency to follow Congress’ requirement to set school nutrition standards based on nutrition science as reflected in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

District Court Order

In April 2020, the district court struck down the final rule on the ground that USDA failed to provide public notice of its plan to gut the nutrition standards in violation of the APA. Specifically, USDA’s 2018 final rule went significantly farther in weakening school food nutrition standards than its prior 2017 proposal. As a result, the court held that USDA did not provide stakeholders like CSPI a sufficient opportunity to participate in the rulemaking process. After this ruling, the weakened school nutrition standards did not become law because the Trump administration failed to re-propose a rule containing nutritional rollbacks for the school meals program.