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January 19, 2020

USDA proposes plan to simplify school lunches — but is it healthy?

U.S. Department of Agriculture's new proposal would decrease fruit options at breakfast and offer an a la carte menu to students

Children's Health Obesity
USDA simplifies lunch menu unhealthy woodleywonderworks/Flickr Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a proposal on Friday that would "simplify" the menu for school lunches. Critics argue that the proposal could lead to unhealthy menu options, such as pizza and fries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is attempting to provide more flexibility to school nutritional administrators, but in doing so, the department may be depleting healthy options from the lunch menu. 

The USDA announced a proposal on Friday in an attempt to end food waste that would include decreasing fruit options at breakfast for more meat options, offering more varieties of vegetables, a la carte meal options, and giving administrators the ability to customize meal plans. 

“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday.

While the proposal seeks to create ease for food administrators, critics say that the new measure could create a "loophole" that would increase the amount of unhealthy and fattening foods on the menu, including pizza and fries. 

"The Trump Administration’s assault on children’s health continues today under the guise of “simplifying” school meals," said Colin Schwartz, Center for Science of Public Interest, in a statement.  "The proposed rule would allow anything that might be allowable as an entrée on any one school day to be served as an a la carte item every single day." 

Schwartz notes that the proposal "sabotages" the Healthy, Hungry-Free Kids Act of 2010, an Obama-era administration policy put in place to combat childhood obesity. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five children and adolescents, aged 6 to 19, have obesity. Obesity can cause complications, including Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, asthma, and fatty liver disease. 

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