USDA to ease school meal standards

USDA to ease school meal standards
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Newly minted Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is expected to unveil a new rule Monday aimed at giving schools more flexibility in meeting federal nutrition standards for school lunches.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Friday that Perdue and Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsGOP frustrated by slow pace of Trump staffing Senate GOP defends writing its healthcare bill in private GOP senators on Comey firing: Where they stand MORE (R-Kan.) will make the announcement at the Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va., where they are expected to eat lunch with the students.

Republicans have long been trying to dial back the standards that became a pillar of former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaHungry for shame — who’s trashing America’s school lunch? Make national service a priority Trump gets royal welcome during 'tremendous' Saudi Arabia visit MORE’s initiative to curb childhood obesity in the U.S.

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Roberts introduced legislation with Sen. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowTrump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids Democrats prod Trump Interior nominee over lobbying work McConnell promises women can take part in healthcare meetings MORE (D-Mich.) last year to give schools two more years to meet new reductions on sodium, but the bill never passed.

Renewed efforts to ease the federal standards came as disappointing news to some advocates.

The American Heart Association was quick to push back. In a statement, the group’s CEO, Nancy Brown, said the current standards are already working and that 99 percent of schools are in compliance.

“Improving children’s health should be a top priority for the USDA, and serving more nutritious foods in schools is a clear-cut way to accomplish this goal,” she said.

“Rather than altering the current path forward, we hope the agency focuses more on providing technical assistance that can help schools get across the finish line, if they haven’t done so already.”