President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress are hard at work eliminating the most visible part of President Obama’s legacy—the Affordable Care Act. While it remains to be seen exactly what Trump will come up with to replace Obamacare, supporters of former first lady Michelle Obama’s nutrition initiatives are worried they may soon be on the chopping block as well.
During her time in the White House, Michelle Obama spearheaded a number of youth nutrition programs, including the USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge. The initiative encouraged public schools to eliminate unhealthy foods and promote proper diet and exercise among students.
Trump hasn’t specifically mentioned school nutrition in policy discussions, but supporters of the first lady’s initiatives are reading between the lines. Trump was elected on a platform of deregulation, and his personal diet suggests nutrition is not a top priority.
“We have a sense of [Trump’s] personal eating habits, but not his view on food policy,” says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at Center for Science. “But given his anti-regulatory, anti-science rhetoric, we’re on high alert.”
Despite concerns, the school nutrition momentum seems to have carried over at least into the early part of Trump’s term in office. New York City public schools recently replaced Kellogg Company (NYSE: K) cereals with lower-sugar, lower-sodium, whole-grain options from a small California company called Back to the Roots.
Whether or not Michelle Obama's initiatives are responsible, big food companies have been struggling to compete with smaller, healthier brands. During a period of strong overall economic growth in the U.S., Kellogg, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, Inc. (NYSE: PEP) have all endured revenue declines of between 6.9 and 11.3 percent over the past three years.
A recent report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that more than half of the $500 million the USDA spent on food for school meals in 2013 went to just six companies: Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN), Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation (NASDAQ: PPC), Cherry Meat Packers Inc, Central Valley Meat Co. Inc., American Beef Packers Inc and Jennie-O Turkey Store LLC.
If Trump indeed turns a blind eye to school nutrition, it would certainly be good news for these food giants, which would love nothing more than to preserve the status quo.
Image: U.S. Department Of Agriculture, Flickr
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