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School Meals to Get Nutritional Makeover

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan

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The school lunches and breakfasts eaten by tens of millions of American kids are due for a nutritional makeover thanks to strong new recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. The recommendations, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture will write into regulations, will increase the amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in school meals; reduce the content of sodium and trans fat; and ensure that the milk is low or no fat. Those important changes will help to address the biggest problems in children’s diets and foster healthier eating habits. However, the IOM unfortunately didn’t recommend limits on added sugars.

Schools shouldn't wait for USDA’s final regulations to implement IOM’s sensible new school meal standards. USDA should help schools work toward the new standards, so by the time they are required schools are already most of the way there.

And when Congress reauthorizes child nutrition legislation, it also should give USDA and school districts the resources and support they need to make these healthier meals appeal even to the most finicky of young eaters. To do that, Congress should provide adequate and consistent funding for USDA's Team Nutrition Network in the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization to provide technical assistance for schools and nutrition education for students.

Few things are more important than the food we feed our kids and funding healthier school meals is an investment worth making.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).