Maryland Court Reinstates School Nutrition Standards
WASHINGTON – The Trump administration must reinstate nutrition standards for school meals that the Agriculture Department eliminated in 2018, a federal court in Maryland ruled this week.
The plaintiffs were the Center for Science in the Public Interest as well as Healthy School Food Maryland.
The advocacy groups argued that Agriculture Department guidelines allowing more sodium in schoolchildren’s food and reducing whole-grain requirements endangered their health. They also said the Agriculture Department failed to follow required rulemaking procedures.
The final rule differed from the version the Agriculture Department released for public comment, the lawsuit said. The first version would have granted exemptions for some nutrition standards but it would not have eliminated them.
The plaintiffs accused the Agriculture Department of deceit in the rulemaking that they say violated the Administrative Procedures Act.
U.S. District Judge George Hazel agreed with the health advocacy groups that the Agriculture Department abused its discretion.
“Although an agency is certainly permitted to change a rule in response to comments, USDA’s changes are not ‘in character with the original scheme’ of the [rule put out for public comment] because there is a fundamental difference” in the final rule, the judge’s opinion says.
The final rule that eliminated “the Final Sodium Target is not a logical outgrowth” of the interim rule that would only have delayed compliance requirements, the court’s ruling said.
Sodium often is linked to high blood pressure.
The Trump administration changed the rules in response to complaints from the food industry and school nutrition directors. They said it was too difficult to comply with the earlier nutrition standards.
The dispute started in 2012 when the Agriculture Department required schools to switch to grain-rich food options and reduce sodium levels. Former first lady Michelle Obama helped lead the campaign for healthier school meals.
School meal managers opposed the new standards. They said students were discarding more of the food because it didn’t taste good.
One of the industry groups that complained was the School Nutrition Association, which represents cafeteria operators and food suppliers. The trade group also questioned whether school food budgets were adequate to meet the 2012 standards.
The Agriculture Department responded by delaying compliance dates. The agency allowed schools to temporarily serve meals with some refined grains under the revised compliance schedule.
The 2018 rule change would have gutted the Obama administration standards by giving schools broader discretion to choose foods that taste good even if they lack whole grains and contain higher sodium levels.
The federal court’s ruling said the Agriculture Department originally “spoke exclusively in terms of delaying compliance requirements, not abandoning the compliance requirements altogether.”
Healthy School Food Maryland officials said the dangers of obesity and other health problems are a higher priority than responding to industry complaints.
“The Trump administration’s attempt to gut the whole-grain and sodium standards would have undone years of hard work and advocacy on the part of organizations like ours,” Healthy School Food Maryland officials said in a statement.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said in a statement, “There is no scientific basis for the Trump administration to reverse the progress schools have been making in reducing sodium and increasing whole grains in school meals.”
Agriculture Department officials have not said whether they would appeal the ruling. The agency oversees school lunch and breakfast programs nationwide.
Although most schools are closed during the coronavirus pandemic, they continue to distribute meals, such as boxed lunches.
They will not need to comply with the food standards required by the court’s ruling until the schools reopen.
In The News
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will try to resolve a dispute between New York and New Jersey... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will try to resolve a dispute between New York and New Jersey over the latter’s desire to back out of a 1953 agreement to work together to combat corruption and racketeering on the waterfront docks the two states... Read More
WASHINGTON — A week after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to begin transporting busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., the... Read More
WASHINGTON — A week after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to begin transporting busloads of migrants to Washington, D.C., the first transport arrived blocks away from the Capitol building. At Abbott’s direction, the Texas Division of Emergency Management chartered the buses to transport the people apprehended... Read More
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida tourism is rebounding exceptionally well and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels according to a recent announcement from... Read More
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida tourism is rebounding exceptionally well and even surpassing pre-pandemic levels according to a recent announcement from Gov. Ron DeSantis. The Sunshine State welcomed 30.9 million visitors between October and December 2021, and nearly a full 118 million domestic visitors during the whole... Read More
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California became the first state to formally shift to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus with... Read More
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California became the first state to formally shift to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus with Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement Thursday of a plan that emphasizes prevention and quick reaction to outbreaks over mandated masking and business shutdowns. The milestone, nearly two... Read More
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has been a leader in restricting offshore oil drilling since the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara... Read More
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California has been a leader in restricting offshore oil drilling since the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara spill that sparked the modern environmental movement, and the latest spill off Huntington Beach is prompting fresh calls for an end to such drilling. That's easier... Read More
States will be at the helm of the $42.5 billion in block grants designated in the historic $65 billion proposed... Read More
States will be at the helm of the $42.5 billion in block grants designated in the historic $65 billion proposed for nationwide high-speed broadband within President Biden’s infrastructure bill. The broadband-related funding of the bill itself shows the federal government recognizes broadband as essential as a... Read More