Washington, DC - The following is a statement from Jessica Donze Black, project director for the Pew Health Group's School Foods Project:
“We are disappointed that the final Agriculture Appropriations bill now includes provisions that could undermine the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) proposal to establish science-based nutrition standards for school meals. This move could undermine children's health by setting policies based on considerations other than the best available data on nutrition from the highly regarded and nonpartisan Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences. This sets a troubling precedent.
“Science tells us that kids who eat well aren't just healthier; they also perform better at school. Ultimately, that affects all of us, benefitting our economy while reducing healthcare costs.
“More than a thousand schools across the country are proving every day they can serve healthy meals that kids will eat, at an affordable price that fits within tightened school budgets. Unfortunately, many more have yet to take comparable actions, and USDA's proposal would lay out a plan for them to achieve similar success. Despite Congress' action, we hope the agency will move forward with a final standard for school meals based on science.
“We also urge all schools and food companies to support parents' efforts to encourage healthy eating by ensuring children are offered nutritious options at school. Nearly one in three children in the United States today is overweight or obese. They are increasingly suffering from diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, and they are at risk for other chronic illnesses. Reversing this trend will not be easy, but given that many children consume more than half of their daily calories while at school, making sure that all of the foods served in schools are healthy is an appropriate place to start.”