Wave of Support for School Nutrition Standards
More than 200 national, state and local organizations and dozens of health professionals signed onto a letter declaring their support for an amendment proposed by Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) to protect federal school nutrition standards. Farr’s proposal aims to fend off efforts to weaken those standards when Congress votes on the upcoming agriculture appropriations bill.
The organizations supporting the current nutrition standards for school children include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, National PTA, National Education Association, Public Health Institute, American Diabetes Association, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Mission: Readiness, Food Research and Action Center and Union of Concerned Scientists.
“With increasing rates of childhood poverty, a difficult economy and rising food costs, many parents simply cannot afford more nutritious foods and rely on school meals as a quality source of nutrition for their children,” the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said in its letter to Congress.
“Nearly one in three school-age children and adolescents in the U.S. is overweight or obese,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a similar open letter. “Obese children are at an increased risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, asthma, joint problems, fatty liver disease and social and psychological problems.”
Federal school lunch standards, set in 2010 by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, require schools to decrease levels of sodium, fat and sugar in their offerings and serve more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The School Nutrition Association, which represents more than 55,000 cafeteria and school nutrition employees, and some frozen food makers and other food industry lobbyists are backing a provision in the House agriculture appropriations bill that would allow schools to apply for waivers to opt out of those nutrition standards.
The House began debate on the agriculture appropriations bill last week but has delayed voting on the measure – including on Farr’s amendment – until later this summer.
EWG and other advocates for children's health believe that federal school nutrition standards must be based on science. For many American children, the meals they eat at school are the most nutritious ones they’ll eat all day.
Why would the School Nutrition Association go along with pizza and french fry lobbyists to try to gut nutrition standards?
Simply put, money, rather than children’s best interests, seems to drive its nutrition agenda. As reported by EWG last week, it receives millions of dollars from processed food companies.