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States sue Trump administration over school lunches

ABC News logo ABC News 4/3/2019
Sonny Perdue et al. sitting at a table: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testifies during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on the rural economy on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2019. © Jacquelyn Martin/AP Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testifies during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on the rural economy on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2019.

A group of states led by New York is suing the Trump administration over changes it made to school lunch nutrition standards initially championed by Michelle Obama.

Five states, plus the District of Columbia, filed a complaint in federal court on Wednesday against the Department of Agriculture and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The lawsuit argues that the changes to the 2012 school breakfast and lunch standards were rolled back without a required public comment period and that they go against nutrition requirements put in place by Congress.

“Over a million children in New York -- especially those in low-income communities and communities of color -- depend on the meals served daily by their schools to be healthy, nutritious, and prepare them for learning,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “The Trump Administration has undermined key health benefits for our children -- standards for salt and whole grains in school meals -- with deliberate disregard for science, expert opinion, and the law. My office will use every tool at our disposal to fight back against these shameful rollbacks and ensure our children our protected.”

Some of the changes finalized by the Trump administration last year included allowing schools to offer additional milk flavors and curbing Obama-era regulations on sodium limits.

MORE: Trump administration finalizes rollback of school lunch regulations championed by Michelle Obama

When the rollbacks were initially announced in 2017, Perdue said the move was not intended to diminish nutritional standards.

The lawsuit -- brought by New York, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Vermont and Washington, D.C. -- asks the court to put a hold on the administration’s sodium and whole grain standards.

“Plaintiff States bring this case to protect the health of the schoolchildren in their States by ensuring that nutritional standards for school meals are not changed without an opportunity to comment on the changes and that, as required by Congress, the standards are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, and scientific research regarding children’s nutrition,” the complaint reads.

A second lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the administration by the group Democracy Forward on behalf of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Healthy School Food Maryland.

“American children are fed too much sodium—raising their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke,” CSPI Vice President for Nutrition Margo Wootan said in a statement.

“Kids are also getting too much white refined flour and not enough whole grains," Wootan said. "After working for over a decade to improve school nutrition and seeing the tremendous progress that schools are making, it’s heartbreaking to see the Trump administration reverse course. The Trump rollbacks are recklessly putting kids’ health in jeopardy.”

ABC News' Anne Flaherty and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

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