Earlier this year, we saw an exciting step forward for school food reform when the USDA released a proposal for updated nutrition standards for school food. These standards would add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat milk to school meals and would require schools to limit the levels of saturated fat, sodium, calories and trans fats served to students.
Now, the USDA is refining the standards based on the input received during a comment period earlier this year (more than 130,000 comments were submitted!) and planning to release the final standards this winter. These updated standards can make an important contribution to improved dietary intake and the long-term health of millions of children across the country; this is especially key given increasing childhood obesity rates and the substantial role school meals play in children's diets.
However, several members of Congress are attempting to stop the USDA’s efforts to complete this process and improve school meals. While attention has been focused on the debt debate, Congress continues to work on other issues key to children’s health, including this issue of nutrition standards for school meals. Now is an important time to raise your voice to help ensure that we don’t lose important progress for healthy school food.
Please take a moment to let your Senators and Representative know that you support healthier school meals by asking them to sign a letter in support of the USDA’s new standards. Our friends at the Center for Science in the Public Interest have created an excellent action alert on this issue: we encourage you to take action here.
We urge the USDA to continue to move forward with developing the new nutrition standards and strongly support their efforts to help schools implement the standards by the start of the 2012 school year. Timely implementation is essential to protect child health, support school food service staff in implementing the recommended changes, and get the most out of the national investment in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. Please take a moment to raise your voice in support of healthy school food.