School food fight tests Perdue’s opening months in Cabinet

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. AJC/Bob Andres

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue summed up one of his most controversial decisions in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet thusly: If he was lobbied to make the decision to delay new nutritional standards for school lunches, it was by students who told him “why they didn’t like their meals anymore.”

With a mix of humor and a reminder of his sharp edge, the former Georgia governor returned to Atlanta on Wednesday to address the School Nutrition Association about his decision to relax requirements spearheaded by the Obama administration.

It’s one of the most contentious moves Perdue has made since Trump tapped him as head of the Agriculture Department, and it provides an early glimpse of how he handles one of the more prominent roles in the president’s administration.

It’s put him at odds with a range of Obama-era officials, health associations and others who warned it will promote unhealthy eating habits. But to Perdue, they were another burdensome and costly regulation from Washington officials who he said were out of touch with local school administrators. Asked Wednesday what the decision says about his leadership style at the department, Perdue was succinct: “I hope it says that we listened.”

Read more on MyAJC: Perdue’s handling of food feud offers a glimpse of how he’ll handle USDA


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