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'Huge Loophole' in Proposed School Lunch Rules Would Allow Some Pasta to Count As a Vegetable

Helen Murphy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has introduced proposed new rules for school lunches that would continue to eliminate the regulations put in place during the Obama administration.

Last Friday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced new proposals that loosen the current rules regarding the type and amount of fruits and vegetables required in kids’ school lunches. In a press release, the department claimed that expanding the number of food items that qualify as a vegetable would help reduce waste, as students often throw out vegetables that they don’t like to eat.

“Schools and school districts continue to tell us that there is still too much food waste and that more common-sense flexibility is needed to provide students nutritious and appetizing meals. We listened and now we’re getting to work,” Secretary Perdue said in a statement.

The proposed new guidelines would make permanent a previous temporary rule that counted potatoes and other starchy vegetables as a fruit during breakfast, and would also count some types of pasta as a vegetable.

“Pasta made of vegetable flour(s) may credit as a vegetable, even if the pasta is not served with another recognizable vegetable,” the proposed rule states. 

The proposed rule change would also affect “à la carte” meals, allowing schools to sell items like pizza and burgers more frequently.

RELATED: USDA Rolls Back Michelle Obama’s School Lunch Regulations, Allowing More Salt and Fat

Colin Schwartz, deputy director of legislative affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told The Washington Post that the proposed rules “would create a huge loophole in school nutrition guidelines, paving 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.”

The proposed new rules are now open for public comment for 60 days before they become finalized.

RELATED: Government Delays Controversial Change to How Many Kids Qualify for Free School Meals

Friday’s announcement is the latest step by President Trump‘s Department of Agriculture to eliminate the regulations put in place during the Obama administration, especially those championed by Michelle Obama in the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The new rules were announced on Jan. 17, the former First Lady’s birthday.

The 2010 act reduced school lunch calorie maximums, cut sodium and trans fat, and required more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.