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 RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate passes tax overhaul, securing major GOP victory Top GOP senators say they have the votes to pass tax bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill 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 LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama on social media: You’ve got to ‘think before you tweet’ MSNBC trolls Trump with video montage of Obama saying ‘Merry Christmas’ Overnight Regulation: USDA delays healthy school lunch requirements | Senate panel advances controversial environmental pick | Drone industry pushes to ease rules | Dem commish joins energy regulator MORE’s initiative to curb childhood obesity in the U.S.

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Roberts introduced legislation with Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowThe Hill's 12:30 Report Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Democrats to Trump: Ask Forest Service before shrinking monuments 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.”