WASHINGTON (CN) — The health of 30 million students is in jeopardy, including 22 million low-income children, argue scientists who filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop rollbacks to school lunch nutrition standards.
Lunch counters will see a spike in sodium ladened food and fewer whole grain options under the new policy — putting students at higher risk of diet-related diseases like diabetes — the lawsuit warns.
On Friday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Healthy Food Maryland filed a complaint asking the U.S. District Court in Maryland to block the policy rolled out last December, arguing it violates nutrition standards mandated by Congress.
With students soon headed back to class, the courts must act now to block the policy, argues Anne Harkavy, executive director of Democracy Forward, who represents the organizations.
“They will be fed more salt and fewer whole grains because the Trump administration decided to sever the link between school nutrition standards and actual nutrition science. That’s not just wrong — it’s unlawful,” Harkavy said in a statement Friday.
The lawsuit claims the Agriculture Department’s “stated reasons for rolling back the sodium standards—concerns about student preferences for salty foods.”
It argues the department similarly failed to explain why it halved the whole grain-rich requirement in the dietary guidelines set by lawmakers.
“Instead, the Department gutted the whole grain-rich requirement based on anecdotal concerns about student taste and operational flexibility,” the lawsuit states.
The administration’s action will result in a coast-to-coast reversal of recent progress made in providing more nutritious options to public school students, the lawsuit argues, citing that 85% of schools in 2017 had met the national 100% whole grain-rich requirement.
“Congress requires school meals to be based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and the science on sodium has only gotten stronger since the last Guidelines. The court should make clear that any rule that defies dietary advice and undermines the health of kids must be fixed,” said CSPI vice president for nutrition Margo Wootan in a statement Friday.
The Department of Agriculture did not respond immediately to a request for comment.