Letter of Thanks to the Department of Agriculture

November 26, 2013

The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack                             
Secretary of Agriculture                                            
U.S. Department of Agriculture                                
1400 Independence Avenue SW                               
Washington, DC  20250           

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

This week, as we reflect on those things for which we are thankful, we wanted to express our appreciation for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's commitment to ensuring that all students have access to safe and healthy foods through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. Of the 31 million children eating school meals every day, more than 19 million receive a free or reduced-price lunch. Without this program, many of these students would not receive the nutrition they need.

Childhood obesity rates have tripled in the last 30 years, and today nearly a third of our nation's young people are overweight or obese. Yet, many children are still not getting all of the nutrients they require. Because children consume up to half of their daily calories in schools, the school food environment has the potential to greatly impact the health of all kids—especially those who rely on these programs. This is why we are grateful that USDA has worked to raise the nutrition standards for those meals and ensure that they are genuinely meeting children's needs.

We look forward to next school year when all snack and à la carte foods will also meet reasonable nutrition standards. Studies have shown that the implementation of such guidelines has the potential to greatly improve students' health, as well as school food service budgets. Ensuring that all foods and beverages available to students are healthy will help make the healthy choice the easy choice for all students.

The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs play an important role in students' health. We commend the agency for its continued dedication to the children who benefit from them.

Sincerely,

Jessica Donze Black RD, MPH; Director
Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project
901 E Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20006

RelatedDownload the Letter (PDF)

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The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project provides nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations on policies that impact the safety and healthfulness of school foods. The project is collaboration between The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.