Statement of CSPI vice president for nutrition Margo G. Wootan

The Trump administration is putting politics before children’s health in ways worse than were expected. 

The rule released today by the U.S. Department of Agriculture locks in dangerously high levels of salt and brings back more refined white flour to school meals. 

Nine out of ten children consume too much sodium which can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and hypertension in adulthood. In fact, more than 1 in 7 U.S. youth aged 12–19 years had hypertension or elevated blood pressure in 2013–2016. Schools were on track to gradually rein in high sodium levels over ten years. 

At first, the Trump administration proposed delaying the next phase of sodium reduction from school year 2017-2018 to school year 2020-2021. The final rule goes further than what was proposed by delaying the second sodium reduction targets to school year 2024-2025, seven years later than initially required.

Worse yet, the administration eliminated the third and final sodium reduction targets that originally were set to go into effect school year 2022-2023.  This will mean that school lunches will fail to be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as is required by law.

Virtually all school districts have met the first sodium reduction targets.  Instead of building on that progress, the Administration has chosen to jeopardize children’s health in the name of deregulation.

The rule allows more white flour and other refined grains in place of whole grains in schools, reverting from all grains being whole grain rich to only half.  That more than 85 percent of schools are successful in serving whole grains (and not requesting waivers) shows that schools can serve and kids will eat whole grains. The administration also is allowing flavored low-fat milk back into schools without any calorie or sugar limits.

CSPI polling shows that sixty percent of Americans opposed the administration’s proposal for rolling back school nutrition and over 80,000 submitted comments to USDA, joined by more than 50 prominent health and child welfare organizations and more than 50 prominent scientists and academics.

Parents will be disappointed when they learn that the meals served to their kids in school are under attack from President Trump’s deregulatory agenda.