Attorney General Letitia James, leading a multistate coalition, today announced a lawsuit against the Trump Administration for illegally weakening key federal nutritional standards for breakfasts and lunches served to nearly 30 million schoolchildren in the United States. The coalition contends that the Trump Administration’s Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rollback of sodium limits and whole grain requirements for school meals lacks legally-mandated scientific basis, and, in further violation of law, was adopted without public notice and opportunity to comment.
“Over a million children in New York – especially those in low-income communities and communities of color – depend on the meals served daily by their schools to be healthy, nutritious, and prepare them for learning,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “The Trump Administration has undermined key health benefits for our children – standards for salt and whole grains in school meals – with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law. My office will use every tool at our disposal to fight back against these shameful rollbacks and ensure our children our protected.”
Established in 1946, the National School Lunch Program is a federally subsidized program that provides students with healthy, balanced meals in schools at low- or no-cost. Since that time, Congress has taken action to ensure that program’s nutritional guidelines keep current with the best scientific evidence with the most recent modernization occurring in 2010 with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.
In 2018, nearly 30 million children consumed nearly five billion school lunches, and more than 14 million children ate school breakfasts under the national school lunch and breakfast programs with over 1.6 million children participating in New York alone. School meal programs are especially important for children in low-income families; in 2018, more than 74 percent of school lunches and 85 percent of school breakfasts provided to schoolchildren in the United States were offered free or at a reduced price. Further, according to USDA’s own figures, a disproportionately high share of students participating in the national school lunch and breakfast programs are black or Hispanic.