More than half of our nation’s children—about 32 million students—eat at least one school meal each day, and many rely on their school cafeteria for both breakfast and lunch. Yet most school meals don’t meet even the basic nutrition standards for fat, fiber or sodium. Ensuring that schools offer only healthy foods and beverages is critical for reversing the childhood obesity epidemic and safeguarding the health of our nation’s children.
The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is a new initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts that will support efforts to improve the nutritional quality and safety of school foods. Ensuring that provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act are rigorously enforced is a primary focus of the two-year project. For example, the law calls for national directives to update nutrition standards for all foods served and sold in schools, guidance to make school foods safer, and more funding to help schools make these changes, including the first increase for school meal reimbursements in more than 30 years.
In January 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed new nutrition standards for school meals, which include adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; reducing excess calories; and limiting unhealthy fats. The new standards will update those that have been in place for more than 15 years, which did not reflect current nutrition science. One of the first goals of the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is to encourage nutrition experts, parents and the general public to show support for these changes, which will have a significant impact on children’s diets.
Through April 13, USDA is seeking public comment on its proposed nutrition standards for school meals, and the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project is working to organize feedback. We encourage you to join our efforts to make school foods healthier.