Noodles, biscuits, tortillas, and other refined grain foods are back on school lunch menus

The U.S. school lunch program is making some changes. They're allowing noodles, biscuits, tortillas and other foods made mostly of refined grains onto their menus again.

The Trump administration is making some changes to school lunch standards. They are revising some of the rules implemented under the Obama administration.

Some of the revised implementations include one that required only whole grains be served. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has now decided that only half the grains served must be whole grains.

The change aims to remove the current rules which require schools to obtain special waivers to serve select refined grains foods.

The administration has decided to also allow low-fat chocolate milk. The previously rule stipulated that only fat-free milk could be flavored, although the rule had been temporarily waived.

The goal to limit sodium intake in children at school will also be scrapped. However, schools will still be required to meet reduced sodium targets.

The School Nutrition Association had called for the previous rules to be revised. Particularly the whole grain-only requirement as they believed it was too difficult for some districts to meet.

Diane Pratt-Heavner, a spokeswoman for the association, said whole-grain bread and buns generally aren't a problem. However, she noted that students complained about other items due to cultural or regional preferences, for example, finding whole-grain biscuits and grits that students like are a challenge in the U.S. South. 

While the schools might welcome the less demanding rules, not everyone welcomed the changes.  The American Heart Association encouraged schools to "stay the course" and stick to the stricter standards that were implemented in 2012.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said the decision to change the whole-grain requirement does not make sense. They said most schools were already in compliance with the rules.

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Some Facebook users agreed that the rules were too strict. One simply said the new rules allowed for food to be prepared easier and cheaper.

The current school year saw 20 percent of schools apply for exemptions from the whole-grain rule. The USDA says the new laws will allow pasta, tortillas, biscuits, and grits. These items had been highly requested from all the schools who had applied for exemption from the old rules.

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any parents felt that the meals that adhered to the rules lacked enough calories for growing children. One said her children often get home "starving."

The USDA school lunch program provides low-cost or free lunches in public schools as well as other institutions. Last year, it served meals to an estimated 30 million children.

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Brandon Lipps, the deputy undersecretary for the USDA's food and nutrition division, said that many schools serving only whole grain foods reported students waste a lot of the food as they do not enjoy the healthier options and do not eat it.

The new laws open doors for schools who have this problem. They can now consider other options that kids find more interesting.

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