On his sixth day on the job in 2017, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue made chocolate milk safe for schools again, along with white flour and salt, in the name of regulatory flexibility. Those revisions to the school food program became final in late 2018. The USDA will propose a new round of "common-sense flexibility" for school meals this week, says Perdue. Skeptics said it will mean more pizza, burgers and fries and fewer servings of fruits and vegetables.
Last week, Feeding America, the nation's largest hunger-relief organization, announced a plan to boost the nutritional content of food distributed at food pantries, including more fresh produce, whole grains, and lean proteins, reports The Washington Post.
First Lady Melania Trump, who toured Japanese-inspired gardens in Florida with the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, intends to keep the kitchen garden planted by Michelle Obama in 2009. An adviser told CNN, "As a mother and as the First Lady of this country, Mrs. Trump is committed to the preservation and continuation of the White House Gardens, specifically the First Lady's Kitchen Garden and the Rose Garden."
A roundup of some noteworthy stories from the last few days.
After she leaves the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama will continue to advocate for healthy food for children through the non-profit Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which works with food companies to improve nutrition content of food products and on labeling, Reuters reported.
Having launched a drive against child obesity in 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the early signs of progress this week and told a White House audience, "I intend to keep working on this issue for the rest of my life."
First Lady Michelle Obama "planted a garden, waged snappy social media campaigns, and worked behind the scenes with researchers, lawmakers, heads of government departments, schools, and food giants to quietly change what Americans eat," says Vox. Former critics regard her advocacy as "brilliant" and a "godsend," writes Julia Belluz in the story, which coincides with the final harvest by the Obama administration of the kitchen garden on the South Lawn of the White House.
An art teacher invited to the groundbreaking for the White House kitchen garden in March 2009 was inspired to co-found a nonprofit, DC Greens, that is involved in many of Washington's healthful-food-access programs, says the Washington Post. Sarah Holway, the teacher, and a friend, Lauren Biel, started DC Greens in 2009 and now have 12 full-time employees.
The Obama administration buttoned down the 2010 reforms in school food — more fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains, but less salt, fat and sugar — with a set of new USDA regulations. They include the final version of a rule, originally issued in 2013, calling for healthier snacks and an update to school "wellness" policies that "ensures that any food or beverage marketed on school campuses during the school day meets the Smart Snacks standards."
The FDA called on foodmakers and restaurateurs to reduce sharply the amount of salt in their products to help Americans avoid high blood pressure and the risk of chronic illness. The food industry balked, saying it already has low-salt products on sale and that the science on healthy salt levels was not as clear as the government says.
The updated Nutrition Facts label "is going to make a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices," said First Lady Michelle Obama. The new label, to be in full use by July 2018, prominently lists the number of calories in a serving, expands serving sizes in line with U.S. eating patterns, and for the first time shows how many grams of sugar are added to foods during processing.
White House nutrition adviser Deb Eschmayer declined to say if First Lady Michelle Obama will step into the debate over reauthorization of child nutrition programs that cost $23 billion a year.
I attended Michelle Obama’s planting of the White House Kitchen Garden on Tuesday. I didn’t want to miss this event because I knew it was the last time the First Lady and her team of assistants would be setting young plants in soil.
The White House named Debra Eschmeyer, co-founder of FoodCorps, as the new executive director of the Let's Move! initiative of First Lady Michelle Obama against childhood obesity.
Sam Kass, nutrition policy advisor at the White House and executive director of the Let's Move! initiative against childhood obesity, is leaving the White House, says the Wall Street Journal.
Sam Kass holds a variety of titles - White House chef, food policy advisor, executive director of the "Let's Move" initiative, says the New York Times in a profile story ahead of Kass' wedding this weekend.
Mission: Readiness, composed of retired military officers, plans to lobby lawmakers against a school lunch waiver when Congress re-convenes after Labor Day, says Politico.
First Lady Michelle Obama rallied support for healthier school meals during a "kids state dinner" at the White House, saying to students and parents at the meal "you all have a right to expect that your hard-earned tax dollars will be spent on food that meets basic nutrition standards. It's as simple as that," she said in a transcript.