SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s reversal of school meal nutrition standards that protect the health and well-being of students around the country. In the complaint, the coalition argues the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision failed to rely on any analysis of the relevant science and ignored existing federal dietary guidelines. In addition, USDA violated notification requirements mandated under the federal Administrative Procedure Act.
“Once again, the Trump Administration has shown its disregard for good governance and the facts,” said Attorney General Becerra. “That’s why we’re stepping in to protect the long-term health and well-being of our students and children throughout the country. A healthy diet is important for all Americans, but it is especially important for the development of our youth.”
On December 12, 2018, USDA issued a final rule reversing regulations regarding whole grains and sodium in child nutrition programs. These standards were based on a USDA-commissioned report by the National Academy of Sciences. Specifically, USDA’s 2018 final rule eliminates the standard requiring that all grains be whole grain-rich, even though the standard provided a process for states to grant exemptions to schools based on hardship. In addition, the final rule significantly departs from previous targets set to lower the consumption of sodium. The harmful health effects of consuming too much salt are well known. The federal government’s retreat from these standards will impact public health, likely disproportionately affecting lower income families and children in minority groups.
The California Department of Justice is committed to using the tools at its disposal to help establish a safe and healthy learning environment for students across the state. In January, the California Department of Justice and the Stockton Unified School District reached an agreement to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African-American and Latino students and students with disabilities. In February, Attorney General Becerra issued an alert reminding California schools of their obligations to protect the civil rights of all students after the Trump Administration rescinded critical portions of similar guidelines previously established by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice.
A copy of the complaint is available here.