One of the greatest achievements of the Obama administration might seem pretty small—healthier school lunches. But for millions of Americans families, it was no small matter. They worked on this for years, taking in public input and a range of interests, including schools, nutrition and public health experts, and food suppliers. And the last key improvement, reducing the high amount of salt in school lunches, is starting to be implanted now.
Or, so it was.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced on Tuesday in a press release titled Ag Secretary Perdue Moves to Make School Meals Great Again (seriously), that the USDA “will provide greater flexibility in nutrition requirements for school meal programs.”
By which they mean Make School Meals Unhealthy Again.
The current standards, through the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, provide healthy meals to low-income children. The meals have less salt, no trans-fat, and more fruit, vegetables, and grains. They also remove soda and junk food from schools.
The plan for salt was to reduce the sodium content over the time gradually, but Trump’s proposal delays the next phase of salt reduction by three years—and might get rid of it entirely.
At the current levels, elementary school lunches have about 1200 milligrams of sodium, two-thirds of what a child is supposed to have in one day. For high school lunches, teenagers are eating half their daily sodium recommendation, 1400 mg.
Dr. Lawrence J. Appel, writing for the Hill, says:
As a doctor, I have seen alarming evidence of the toll on health that too much salt can have, including for children. Nine out of ten children eat too much salt. High salt intake is linked to high blood pressure, even in kids, which can lead to early evidence of heart disease, and heart attacks and stroke later in life.
In fact, the prevalence of high blood pressure is increasing in American children. Approximately one in six children aged 8 to 17 have blood pressure that is too high.
But Trump, in his mission to undo everything Obama accomplished, is going to make sure that children have no option but to eat unhealthy meals.