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Health organizations weigh in on USDA's decision to relax school nutrition standards

In the midst of requests to lax school nutrition standards, multiple organizations release statements.


kidslunch2a.PNG“The USDA’s less rigid stance on school nutrition standards is a rollback masquerading as ‘flexibility.’ 

In the last five years, nearly 100 percent of the nation’s schools have complied with updated school meal standards. Kids across the country have clearly benefited from these changes. Their meals are now lower in sodium and calories and offer more whole grains. In addition, young people are eating 16 percent more vegetables and 23 percent more fruit. If these standards are left in place, they have the potential to decrease childhood obesity cases by more than two million by 2025. We don’t understand why the USDA and some members of Congress want to fix something that clearly is not broken.

While the health impact of re-opening this rule is unknown at this point, it’s clear having American school children eat fewer whole grains is not heart healthy. Neither is serving 1 percent flavored milk, which loads extra calories and added sugar to school meals.

The USDA’s more accommodating approach to meet sodium standards when it comes to targets two and three is also extremely worrisome. This is especially true when this strategy is coupled with language in the omnibus bill to freeze the targets at one.

If we don’t move forward with the sodium standards, there could be serious health consequences for our kids. Children who eat high levels of sodium are about 35 percent more likely to have elevated blood pressure, which can ultimately lead to heart disease or stroke. Earlier this year, the USDA gave schools a one-year extension for target two compliance. We should stick with that plan. We are pleased that the USDA will at least continue providing technical assistance to schools on sodium, which has been successful so far.

Overall, the American Heart Association is very disappointed that the USDA has decided to put special interests back on the school menu. We strongly urge the agency and Congress not to give politics priority over the health our children.”

Read the original American Heart Association statement here.

Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, included in a statement that “providing students with appealing, nutritious school meals is not easy – it takes a lot of work. But shouldn’t our schools be setting an example for our students about the importance of working hard to meet critical goals? We would not lower standards for reading, writing and arithmetic just because students found them challenging subjects, and we should not do it for school nutrition either.”

In a statement from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, president and CEO Richard Besser, MD, urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to support students’ health and well-being by fully implementing the nutrition standards for school meals that took effect in 2012.  

In a statement from CSPI, Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan called out the administration for undermining school meals as well as menu labeling.  

Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) urges the agency and Congress to maintain evidence-based nutrition standards for all foods sold and served in schools rather than reverse progress already made to set our nation’s youth on a healthy course.