WASHINGTON — When it comes to school meals, adults and kids alike are ready for a change. An extraordinary number of people sent messages to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in support of the agency’s proposed standards to improve school meals. More than 115,000 people took action on this Web site and others, sending the message that it’s time to serve healthier foods and beverages to all students!
This public engagement comes on the heels of the release of a poll by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project that found substantial support for efforts to make all foods served and sold in schools safe and healthy.
The huge number of supportive comments clearly demonstrates that Americans urgently want to improve school meals. A recent poll release by the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project showed that more than three-quarters of voters support efforts to improve school meals. The enormous outpouring of submissions to USDA is more proof that people not only want to see change — they are willing to take action to make it happen.
USDA issued its proposed standards in January and accepted public comments on them until April 13. If the agency finalizes the regulations as they now stand, school children will have healthier meals that include:
- More fruits and vegetables—double the amount of fruit at breakfast and more fruits and vegetables at lunch;
- A greater variety of vegetables to include more colorful options and fewer starchy vegetables like french fries;
- More whole grains—within two years all grains served will be rich in whole grains;
- Only low-fat white milk and nonfat white or flavored milk; and
- Less sodium, a change that will be phased in over time.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorized additional funding for schools that meet these higher nutrition standards, the first substantial increase in more than 30 years.
Numerous public health and nutrition advocates support the updated nutrition standards, including the American Heart Association, the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the National Urban League and the Jamie Oliver Foundation among others.
USDA is processing all of the submissions and will post the comments, and a final tally, online.