Josh Sosland

It has been nearly seven years since passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, an Obama administration law aimed at raising nutrition standards in the school lunch program. Requirements under the law included one dictating that grain-based foods must include 50% or more whole grains by weight or have whole grains as the first ingredient.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has credited the food industry “for its efforts to reformulate products to meet this standard and to reinforce the importance of whole grains to the general public.” Still, last week the Trump administration took steps to ease the law’s nutrition requirements, including whole grains provisions. Secretary of Agriculture George E. Perdue said, “If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition.”

The U.S.D.A. in recent years has contended that the transition to whole grains in school lunches and breakfasts was working well. Groups like the Whole Grains Council have cited progress in increasing whole grains food selections. At the same time, it is clear the hoped-for broad upswing in demand has not materialized. The U.S.D.A. last week revised downward its estimate for whole wheat flour production in 2016 to 22.2 million cwts, off 8% from 2015 and only 5.2% of total flour production. The reality is the push toward whole grains is not succeeding.