Fruit and vegetable standards for school meals remained intact May 1 as the Trump administration gave schools flexibility on sodium, whole grains and low-fat milk.

New U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue rolled back some nutrition requirements of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2012 in a proclamation he announced at a Leesburg, Va., elementary school, according to a news release.

“I’ve got 14 grandchildren, and there is no way that I would propose something if I didn’t think it was good, healthful, and the right thing to do,” Perdue said in the release. “And here’s the thing about local control: it means that this new flexibility will give schools and states the option of doing what we’re laying out here today. These are not mandates on schools.”

There has been some pushback from the school foodservice industry on the standards, including about the increase in produce mandated by the 2012 act.

The legislation increased requirements for fruits and vegetables served in school meals from one-half to three-fourths of a cup (combined) per day to the new standard of three-fourths to one cup of vegetables plus one-half to one cup of fruit per day.

Groups that worked on the fruit and vegetable standards for years were concerned when the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced April 28 it planned to make nutrition standards more flexible, said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for United Fresh Produce Association.

DiSogra said she and others were happy to see the proclamation does not affect the rules pertaining to fruits and vegetables.

“I think this is just a testament to the fact that (the standards) are working and ... students are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals, and that schools nationwide have done a good job implementing the new fruit and vegetable standards,” DiSogra said.

She also credited industry members for working with schools to meet those requirements.

“Our produce distributors, those that work with schools all over the country, they have played a big role here in helping schools be successful,” DiSogra said.

 
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