Students across the United States have greater access than ever before to healthy school breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, thanks in part to recently updated national standards that set a high nutritional bar for school food and drinks. Approximately 90 percent of school districts are meeting these standards, which polling shows are supported by the vast majority of parents.
Parents, students, school leaders, and policymakers will have new opportunities in 2015 to build on this progress. Here are five issues to watch:
Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. First enacted in 1966, the federal Child Nutrition Act oversees all national child nutrition programs, including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs, among others. Congress typically reviews and reapproves this law every five years. The Senate Agriculture Committee conducted two related hearings in 2014 on the importance of school meals programs and the challenges associated with feeding the nation’s schoolchildren.
With the current law—the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act—expiring Sept. 30, 2015, both chambers are likely to hold child nutrition hearings this year and propose legislation to renew these programs.
Local wellness policies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expected to issue a final rule on what needs to be included in local wellness policies. Established by and specific to an individual school district, these policies promote the health of students and address the growing problem of childhood obesity. Among other requirements, schools may only market foods and beverages that meet the Smart Snacks standards, which ensures consistent promotion of healthy items throughout the campus. The updated standards will increase accountability and give parents and communities more information about school districts’ progress in promoting wellness. Read the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project’s comments on the proposed rule.
1The Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to eat a healthful diet that helps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, promote health, and prevent disease. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and USDA have jointly published the Dietary Guidelines every five years since 1980.