BALTIMORE — The Trump administration’s revised school nutrition standards were struck down in federal court on April 13. US District Judge for the District of Maryland George J. Hazel ruled that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) did not give adequate public notice of the changes.
The new rules, which were released Dec. 6, 2018, gave schools greater flexibility in implementing nutrition standards for milk, whole grains and sodium, according to the USDA. The final rule broadened milk options to include flavored, low-fat options, required half of the weekly grains in the school and breakfast menu be whole grain-rich, provided schools more time to for gradual sodium reduction, and eliminated the final sodium reduction target.
A 2019 lawsuit brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Healthy School Food Maryland challenged the revised rules. The USDA violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to provide an explanation for changing the standards and eliminating the sodium and whole grain targets without seeking feedback from the public, according to the lawsuit.
Judge Hazel agreed that the Trump administration’s final rule was “not a logical outgrowth” of the proposals on which the USDA sought public comment. The USDA eliminated the final of three sodium reduction targets without letting the public know.
“There is a fundamental difference between delaying compliance standards — which indicates that school meals will still eventually meet those standards — and eliminating those standards altogether,” he wrote.
“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,” said Fania Yangarber, executive director of Healthy School Food Maryland. “Now, more than ever, our kids deserve high nutrition standards in their school meals. In the midst of a pandemic and economic crisis, this is a win for children and families across America — particularly those that rely on free and reduced-cost meals.”