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Tuesday, May 02, 2017

"It's just pop..."

by digby

I know that people don't like being told what to eat. I try to stay out of the food wars. But Michelle Obama's program for kids was a really positive, upbeat, fun way to try to get kids to eat healthy foods, which is something all adults should be for. If that's some kind of "liberal" plot then this culture is well and truly fucked and we might as well just pack it in.

Ok. We might as well just pack it in:

Michelle Obama had a strikingly successful record of fighting the obesity epidemic and improving nutrition — both symbolically and through advocacy for legislation. But many Obama-era efforts to push the food industry in a healthier direction are now under threat.

Over the past couple of weeks, a number of reports have surfaced suggesting that the food industry is trying to capitalize on Trump’s anti-regulation agenda and push back on reforms aimed at making our food supply healthier. The food lobbyists, emboldened by the current White House, are pushing back on recent healthy food and transparency mandates that would hurt their bottom line.

Some of the key battlegrounds — school lunches, food and menu labels — are familiar terrain for anybody who has been observing the efforts to clean up the US food supply. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been happening, and the top three areas to watch.

1) School lunch standards are under siege — again

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 centered on cleaning up school food. Getting the act passed became a key focus of Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity.

But the new US Department of Agriculture chief, Sonny Perdue, put announced steps on Monday that’ll give schools more flexibility in meeting federal nutrition standards for school lunches.

To understand what’s changing, we need to grasp what the Obama administration pushed for: It required the federal government to use recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to make the National School Lunch Program more nutritious, with more whole grains, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, and less sodium, full-fat milk, and meat.

The law also mandated that schools stop marketing the fat-, sugar-, and salt-laden snacks — like sugary beverages and chocolate bars — in cafeterias and vending machines and replace those offerings with lower-calorie and more nutritious alternatives like fruit cups and granola bars. Finally, it made it possible for schools whose students have high poverty rates to provide free breakfasts in addition to lunches, without requiring paperwork on whether individual students meet certain poverty criteria.

Under Perdue’s USDA, schools will have more wiggle room for interpreting the standards around milk, whole grains, and sodium. Schools can now push back targets to further reduce sodium in lunches for at least three years, serve 1 percent flavored milk again, and get exemptions from having to move to whole-grain products, the Hill reported.

“This announcement is the result of years of feedback from students, schools, and food service experts about the challenges they are facing in meeting the final regulations for school meals,” Perdue said in a USDA statement.

It’s still unclear what this loosening of standards will mean in practice and how schools will interpret them. But health advocates were hopeful that easing up on regulation won’t completely undo the Obama-era reforms.

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown pointed out that nearly all US schools are already meeting the new school nutrition standards. The majority of parents also support the legislation. “Improving children’s health should be a top priority for the USDA, and serving more nutritious foods in schools is a clear-cut way to accomplish this goal,” she said in a public statement.

They are also going to delay or completely reverse the new requirements for food labeling. Because what you don't know wont hurt you, amirite???

Michelle Obama's legacy lives on, however. Gardening has spiked and her growing the White House kitchen garden is given some credit for it. And some other initiatives do too:

Obama championed healthy living and exercise on venues as diverse as Ellen and Elmo. She also worked with the food industry to remove calories from the food supply, increase transparency in labeling, and create and market healthier food choices for families — efforts that have already had an impact and will continue after the Obama White House.

The Partnership for a Healthier America, which launched in conjunction with (but independently from) the Let’s Move campaign, helped get food companies — such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and General Mills — to commit to cutting calories from their foods. At the latest count in April, the initiative had already removed 6.4 trillion calories (or 78 calories per person) by reformulating products and shrinking serving sizes.

Another milestone came in June 2015, when the FDA banned trans fats from the food supply within three years. The policy brought the US in line with other countries that have already banned these processed unsaturated fats, which increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes, including Denmark, Austria, Iceland, and Switzerland.

It’s difficult to imagine food companies packing calories and trans fat back into their products at a time when American consumers are demanding healthier options. And that's momentum that won't die."

I don't know. I feel as if all momentum has died and we're either spinning our wheels or going backwards. But yes, companies have no good reason to go back to transfats and hopefully the public will hold its ground and demand food labeling whether Donald Trump and his wrecking crew are president or not.

And who knows? Maybe Melania will take up the cause. It would be great if she would if only to get those right wingers to embrace the cause. Their kids needs to eat healthy foods too.

Update: This too

Ivanka's got the girl beat.