USDA Pasta Isn't A Vegetable - Don't Roll Back Healthy School Lunch

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The Cherab Foundation, the world’s largest volunteer-based 501c3 nonprofit organization for neurologically-based communication impaired children strongly opposes a proposed rollback rule issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that further weakens across the United States both school lunch as well as school breakfast, since the last regulatory rollback of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010.  This will affect all students, not just those with special needs.

With the new proposal, the Cherab Foundation adamantly opposes the rollback and in particular, we are concerned with

  • Pasta made with vegetable flour can count that pasta as an actual vegetable even if there are no vegetables served with it. 
  • Potatoes can count as a fruit (including breakfast french fries or hash browns)
  • More pizza, burgers, and fried chicken
  • Half the amount of fruit at breakfast.
  • Enlarging the loophole allowing school districts to circumvent Smart Snack Guidelines.

If you are concerned about these proposed changes, and/or as a parent that cares for a child that struggles to find a voice, please sign this petition and make your voice heard, you also have until March 23rd, 2020 to comment here

"The Cherab Foundation is troubled by the neurological and health impact the USDA’s action will have on children.  Children spend most of their day and consume one to two meals at school.  There is strong evidence already linking nutrition to academic performance and growing research to the neurological, behavioral, and psychological impacts of the microbiome through food choices.  Without vital (essential) nutrients there are detrimental changes in several areas of childhood development, e.g., speech, cognition, focus, memory, and academics. 

In addition to academic performance, of great concern, is the rise in obesity and prediabetes even in young children today.  The diets of too many American children continue to fall far short of recommendations for good brain and body health.  The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act had been a step in the right direction." said Cherab Foundation president Lisa Geng

This is USDA's second roll-back of HHFKA, the first, in 2018, undid the whole grain, nonfat milk and sodium rules meant to address growing health concerns including the rising levels of obesity and prediabetes in American children and teens.

While the USDA claims these changes are necessary to mitigate food waste, studies show that food waste has either remained the same or decreased since HHFKA nutrition standards. Picky eating combined with the USDA’s decision to roll back the healthy nutrition standards of the HHFKA is extremely concerning for the cognitive and physical health of children. 

“As feeding issues are already prevalent in the special needs’ population due to restricted diets and feeding disorders, the Cherab Foundation understands it can be difficult at times to get children to eat a healthy meal, this, however, doesn't mean providing children who still have a developing brain the choice between a healthy meal or junk food.  

Studies have found a healthy diet is linked to better reading skills and that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were independent of several confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness.

There are several strategies to encourage healthy eating in schools including putting recess before lunch, marketing healthy foods to the students, allowing students more time to eat, getting students involved in meal planning and some more creative options some shared successfully by Chef Jamie Oliver including growing a community school garden, nutritional data displayed as a traffic light (green healthy, red unhealthy), salad bars, getting local chefs involved as volunteers in school lunches.   

"As a parent and as the president of the Cherab Foundation I expected higher standards from those that make rules at the USDA.  I would believe those in charge of the USDA have the intelligence to appreciate that lowering standards to what children eat for their school career today is going to affect both academics performance now and in the future, and add to the already rising rates of obesity and the metabolic diseases in children and teens.  School districts need to ensure that students receive nutritious, appealing food that is cost-effective.  It appears there was little to no thought that went into this proposal in regards to the future, our country’s children.”  

If you are concerned about these proposed changes, and/or as a parent that cares for a child that struggles to find a voice, please sign this petition and make your voice heard, you also have until March 23rd, 2020 to comment here

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The Cherab Foundation a volunteer-based 501(c)3 non-profit since 2000 supports and embraces all children with a communication impairment such as Apraxia and Autism, and believe all children, regardless of diagnosis or ability to communicate verbally, have the right to education and the opportunity to pursue their goals and dreams without stigma, prejudice or bullying. Visit the Cherab Foundation at www.cherab.org

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5746694/
  2. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0009922814561742
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532387/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27612875
  5. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4120814/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18621960
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10168709
  9. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190312.130704/full/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19761650
  11. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/chef_jamie_oliver_makes_over_school_lunches