As school officials across the country scramble to serve meals to
millions of students amid widespread closures, there's a looming regulatory
question: What nutrition standards will they have to follow next year?
A federal court decision on Monday potentially turned the
landscape upside down. The court ruled that USDA's 2018 rule to relax whole
grain and sodium standards — which had been championed by former first lady
Michelle Obama — violated the Administrative Procedure Act.
"This really puts the agency back at ground zero," said Karianne
Jones, a lawyer at Democracy Forward, the legal watchdog group that represented
the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Healthy School Food
Maryland in their lawsuit against USDA.
Cooking from scratch: If USDA wants to keep its
policy, the department will likely have to start the rulemaking over, including
soliciting comments, a process that usually takes years, Jones said.
What's next? The government has 60 days to appeal
the decision. A USDA spokesperson declined to comment on next steps, noting
that the department doesn't weigh in on pending litigation.