ATLANTA - Former Georgia governor and current U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is defending his decision to ease rules about school lunches.
Perdue told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot the change is good for schools and students.
Many of those regulations came about as part of Michelle Obama's initiative to combat childhood obesity.
But Perdue said they hamstrung local school districts and created lunches that many kids didn't even want to eat.
Nearly 7,000 school nutritionists greeted Perdue at the Georgia World Congress Center Monday.
He talked about his first decision to ease regulations on school lunches -- a decision that critics said could lead to less-nutritious school meals.
Perdue said those critics shouldn't blame childhood obesity on school lunchrooms.
“When you look at the obesity epidemic that's happening, that's not happening in the schools. That's happening at home and on the road to and from school,” Perdue said.
Under requirements endorsed by Michelle Obama, the federal government required schools to reduce fat and sodium and increase whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
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But Perdue believes that put an expensive burden on local school districts, which were creating meals that many kids didn't eat anyway.
“I think that school nutrition professionals want more than anything to provide meals that are wholesome, nutritious and appealing and affordable certainly to children, and these flexibilities enable all school districts to achieve that goal,” Perdue told Elliot.
Under Perdue’s directive, schools can ask for an exemption from the whole grain requirement and can serve milk with 1 percent fat.
Basically, Perdue said he trusts school nutritionists more than the federal government.
“I said it's a matter of trust. I trust them. I know their motives, and I know they want to feed kids healthy, nutritious, tasty food,” Perdue said.
Critics have said school districts will opt for the lower standards just to save money on school lunches.
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