Perdue: School nutrition rules can’t help kids if they dislike the food


By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

July 12, 2017


Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue summed up one of his most controversial decisions in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet thusly: If he was lobbied to make the decision to delay new nutritional standards for school lunches, it was by students who told him “why they didn’t like their meals anymore.”


With a mix of humor and a reminder of his sharp edge, the former Georgia governor returned to Atlanta on Wednesday to address the School Nutrition Association about his decision to relax requirements spearheaded by the Obama administration.


It’s one of the most contentious moves Perdue has made since Trump tapped him as head of the Agriculture Department, and it provides an early glimpse of how he handles one of the more prominent roles in the president’s administration.


In defending the move to a largely appreciative crowd, Perdue took a few jabs at the media, sprinkled in several jokes and took a fiercely unapologetic tone. It was reminiscent of his two terms as Georgia’s first Republican governor in generations, when he blended joviality with an elbows-out approach.


It’s put him at odds with a range of Obama-era officials, health associations and others who warned it will promote unhealthy eating habits. As Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group put it, “Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should.”


But to Perdue, they were another burdensome and costly regulation from Washington officials who he said were out of touch with local school administrators. Asked Wednesday what the decision says about his leadership style at the department, Perdue was succinct: “I hope it says that we listened.”


A food fight ...


‘Dangerous’ decisions ...