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April 16, 2020

Federal Court Rejects Trump Rollback of School Nutrition Standards

Victory: The Trump administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture sought to reduce school nutrition standards by increasing the amount of sodium allowed in school meals and reducing the amount of whole grains


Nydia Gutierrez, Earthjustice

New York, NY

This week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland struck down a Trump administration rule that sought to weaken one of the largest and most effective public health programs in the country. The court vacated the rule gutting nutrition standards for school meals, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), because USDA failed to provide adequate notice of its intent to eliminate Obama-era targets for sodium reduction and whole grain availability. In September, Earthjustice filed an amicus brief opposing the rule on behalf of the American Heart Association, American Public Health Association, FoodCorps, MomsRising, and National Education Association. The brief highlighted the importance of science-backed nutrition standards for school meals.

Over 30 million children eat school meals each day. School meals are especially important for low-income children; an estimated 75% of school lunches and 85% of school breakfasts are provided free or at a reduced price to children living in low-income households. 

The following is a statement from Alexis Andiman, Staff Attorney with Earthjustice’s Sustainable Food & Farming Program:

“Over 30 million children eat school meals every day. The importance of these meals has become all the more clear as the COVID-19 crisis keeps kids out of school and interrupts their ability to access a vital source of affordable nutrition. It is USDA’s job to make sure our schools have the support and encouragement they need to offer nutritious meals, and the agency shouldn’t have eliminated science-backed nutrition standards without giving the public a fair chance to comment. We applaud the court for standing up for kids.”

View the September 2019 filing: School Nutrition Standards - Amicus Curiae Brief

The attempted rollback conflicted both with extensive nutrition science and with the government’s own recommendations for a healthy diet. In 2012, USDA issued strong nutrition standards for school meals that required a gradual decrease in sodium content and an increase in whole grains, protecting children from serious health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

Getty Images | Ariel Skelley

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