School lunches remain the same despite relaxed federal nutrition standards

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PORT BYRON, Illinois -- The Trump administration may be relaxing the nutritional requirements for school lunches, but don't expect to see major changes in your child's cafeteria.

Back in 2012, the Obama White House set strict nutritional guidelines for schools, but the new U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, has announced plans to amend those regulations, specifically in regards to sodium, whole grains, and flavored milk.

Related: Students use hashtag to lash out over school lunchesĀ 

For the 2017-2018 school year, schools must continue to meet Sodium Target 1, rather than the stricter, previously-planned Target 2. They can also continue to apply for exemptions from the whole grain-rich requirements, but at least half of the grains offered weekly must still be whole grain-rich. Finally, states may offer exemptions allowing the sale of low-fat (1 percent) flavored milk.

Despite the added flexibility, local school districts say lunch will remain the same.

"Everything that we have in place now will remain in place," said Deb Beale, director of food services for the Riverdale School District. "There's just a couple of things that maybe won't get as restrictive as they had originally planned for."

Spokespeople for the Davenport Community School District and Pleasant Valley School District said they will not be making any changes, either.

Beale says students have adapted well to the changes implemented five years ago, and she'll continue to balance taste and nutrition for students.

"It seems like the students have adapted pretty well to the change," said Beale. "I feel like this has been a good thing for the students to know that what they're eating is what's going to affect them in the future."

The new guidelines apply only to the 2017-2018 school year, but the federal Food and Nutrition Service is working on making permanent changes in the areas of sodium, whole grains and milk.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service has much more on its website, including a detailed breakdown of school meal nutrition standards and exemption policies. You can find that information by clicking here.