The Kids' Safe and Healthful Foods Project, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, provided nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations on policies that affect the safety and healthfulness of school foods. The project concluded its work in 2017.
Since the 1990s, 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 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 Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project worked to help ensure that:
- the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) adopted 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- schools have the resources they need to train cafeteria employees and replace outdated and broken kitchen equipment; and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 developed and implemented rigorous school food safety policies.