Low-fat chocolate milk will once again be on the menu for school lunches across the United States, according to new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Announced Thursday, the rules, which roll back some of the strict standards set by the Obama administration, will also allow schools to serve refined grains again.
The decision was made after schools, under the rules spearheaded by former First Lady Michelle Obama, were struggling to create meals that were both healthy and something that the kids actually wanted to eat. “If kids are not eating what is being served, they are not benefiting, and food is being wasted,” says Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.
Under the Obama-era rules, only fat-free milk could be flavored. Now, kids will be able to choose flavored low-fat options. The new standards also state that only half of the grains served need to be whole grains, eliminating the need for schools to have special permission to serve foods with refined grains. Last year, the USDA says that 20 percent of schools were requesting waivers for refined grains, mostly for pasta, tortillas, biscuits and grits.
“We all have the same goals in mind — the health and development of our young people,” Perdue said in a statement. “USDA trusts our local operators to serve healthy meals that meet local preferences and build bright futures with good nutrition.”
However, both the American Heart Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest are urging schools to “stay the course” and continue to meet the stricter standards.
The new guidelines will affect about 99,000 schools and institutions that participate in the federally funded school lunch program, which feeds over 30 million kids, many of whom come from low-income families. A third change, which will address how much time schools have to meet the required limited sodium rules, is expected to be announced in the near future.