With over 23 million children and teens now obese or overweight, conditions like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and clogged arteries are now affecting our youngest generation.
Yet outdated school meals standards only contribute to the problem.
The USDA has the power to help schools provide healthier choices, but only if they approve new standards for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs that would require schools to serve more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain rich foods, and would limit the amount of sodium and unhealthy fats.
Every day, 31 million children get their lunch and 11 million children get their breakfast through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, making it a major opportunity to give children across the country healthier choices five days a week.
Send a message to the USDA urging them to support healthier school meals – nothing less than our children’s future is at stake.
Under the proposal, schools would be required to serve more fruits and vegetables of various colors, limit starchy vegetables, and increase foods made with whole grains, which are key components of a healthy diet. I applaud this requirement. Fruits and vegetables, for example, are rich in nutrients, low in calories, and high in fiber, providing the necessary nutrition that will help kids perform better in the classroom.
I also appreciate the proposed limits on sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat, which have been shown to contribute to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a number of other chronic health conditions. Decreasing the amount of sodium and unhealthy fats children consume will reduce their risk for these harmful conditions. Making the standards for sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat as robust as possible, based on the most current science, will be critical for our children’s health.
The USDA should also work with schools to ensure that they have the training and equipment necessary to prepare healthy meals that meet the new requirements, as well as provide schools with additional guidance about the amount of time children are given to eat breakfast and lunch. I would also like to see robust nutrition education integrated throughout the school environment to reinforce a foundation of healthy eating habits. Providing children with enough time to eat, scheduling meals at an appropriate time of day, and educating children about the benefits of a healthy diet will encourage students to try new foods, make more nutritious selections, and ultimately reduce the amount of food that is thrown away.
The USDA proposed nutrition standards are essential for providing a healthier school environment and a brighter future for our children and are a great step forward in fighting our nation’s obesity epidemic. I encourage the USDA and schools across the country to implement the revised standards as quickly as possible.