USDA's Proposed National School Nutrition Standards Cheered
Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan
Under USDA's proposed nutrition standards, parents will no longer have to worry that their kids are using their lunch money to buy junk food at school. Combined with the improvements in school lunches that schools began implementing this school year, at long last, all foods and beverages sold in schools will need to meet healthy nutrition standards.
Getting sugary drinks and junk food out of school vending machines, a la carte lines in cafeterias, and school stores is much needed given the high rates of childhood obesity and children's poor diets.
There's been good progress on school foods over the last decade as a result of local school district and state policies and voluntary efforts by the soft-drink industry. But still, there are too many unhealthy foods and drinks in schools.
Two-thirds of elementary school students and almost all high school students can buy foods and beverages outside of the meal programs in schools. Studies show that unhealthy snacks and drinks sold in schools undermine children’s diets and increase their weights.
Current national school nutrition standards for foods sold outside of meals only limit "foods of minimal nutritional value," like seltzer water, hard candy, and ice pops, and not candy bars, snack cakes, and sports drinks. The updated standards proposed by USDA will better address obesity and other dietary problems, like saturated and trans fats, salt, and sugars.