U.S.: Changes in lunch program may impact fruit industry

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U.S.: Changes in lunch program may impact fruit industry

Fruits and veggies may not be a central part of school lunches anymore as the Trump administration proposed changes to regulations last Friday. The proposal targets Obama era rules that added more fruits and vegetables to school lunches in 2012.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the new policy would include halving the current requirement for the amount of fruit served.

Whereas schools currently must follow standards to serve at least one cup of fruit to kids daily, the new standards would suggest that 1/2 a cup is provided. It also gives more freedom to schools to dictate how many fruits and vegetables it wants to provide.

Critics say that this is a quick route for more fried food and pizzas to be a part of children's' diets. The USDA claims that the change is an effort to reduce food waste created by fruit. Secretary of the USDA Sonny Perdue said that the measures ensure "common sense flexibility".

He emphasized that the USDA works alongside customers and schools to provide solutions to the supposed issues that the previous regulations brought.

Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the proposed rules, if finalized, “would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines".

This essentially paves "the way for children to choose pizza, burgers, french fries and other foods high in calories, saturated fat or sodium in place of balanced school meals every day," he told the Washington Post.

Former first lady Michelle Obama's heralded school program established stricter standards for school lunches. With its rollback, the regulatory reform will expand schools ability to offer a la carte purchases. It also dictates that school breakfast programs can adjust fruit servings to offer alternatives in its place.

Implications of new lunch program

TIME said that this could lead to the replacement of fruits by fattier products. For example, schools will be able to replace fruit with things like sugary breakfast bars.

New substitutions also mean that potatoes and legumes - that typically were used as meat alternatives - can be considered vegetables. The "flexibility" emphasized by the rollback is supposedly in line with feedback the USDA has received from schools and consumers.

“These rules are a direct response to what has been shared with us by those who look these children in the eye every day, building on their feedback to introduce effective next steps that will ensure children get the nutrition they need to be successful," a USDA spokesperson was quoted telling TIME.

Nutritional programs implemented by the USDA and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) impact 30 million students at 99,000 schools.

As a part of the previous regulations, a salad bar program was put into place and sponsored by United Fresh.

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