Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project

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

Over the last 15 years, our nation’s children have become less healthy and are at higher risk for serious chronic health issues; ultimately leading to increased health care costs for all of us. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), children’s diets are of poor nutritional quality. They include too much salt and saturated fat, and too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, the IOM, the CDC and other public health groups have identified schools as a crucial setting in which to improve children’s diets.

Additionally, numerous reports have recently identified gaps in food-safety policies, potentially allowing unsafe food onto children’s lunch trays. According to the CDC, 23,000 foodborne illnesses were caused by food served in U.S. schools between 1998 and 2007, a number that is likely underreported. Studies have documented that schools may unknowingly receive and serve recalled food and that mandatory cafeteria inspections are sometimes skipped.

The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are working together on the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project to provide nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations to help ensure that:

  • the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adopts science-based nutrition standards for all foods and beverages served and sold in schools;
  • schools have the resources they need to train cafeteria employees and replace outdated and broken kitchen equipment; and
  • USDA develops and implements rigorous school food safety policies.

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Matt Mulkey

Manager, Communications