Princeton, N.J.—The following is a statement from Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
“Our nation faces a simple yet profound question: will all children have the chance to receive healthier meals at school, or will we turn back the clock to an unhealthier past?
“Over the past few years, updated nutrition standards for school meals, developed in part based on scientific recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, have led to more than 30 million students getting more of what kids need to be healthy (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy) and less of what they don’t (saturated fat, sodium, and added sugar).
“Every child deserves the best at every school—whether it’s a textbook in the classroom, a computer in the library, or breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria. The evidence is clear: providing healthy food in schools can help young people eat a healthier diet, and is something that voters overwhelmingly support.
“When students are struggling with their school work, we don’t let them skip the assignment—we give them extra help. We should follow the same principle with school nutrition services. For example, we know that many school districts have outdated kitchen equipment that make serving healthier meals more challenging. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $25 million in grants to help them modernize, and both USDA and other organizations will continue to provide the support that schools need.
“Given that kids can consume up to half of their daily calories at school, providing nutritious school meals is a critical component of building a national Culture of Health that makes the healthy choices the easy choices for every child. Let’s continue to make school meals healthier.”
RWJF has dedicated $500 million to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America by 2015. Since 2006, RWJF has worked to create healthier school environments by supporting the Healthy Schools Program of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.The program now works with more than 20,000 schools, helping more than 12 million students eat healthier foods and be more active. RWJF also collaborates with The Pew Charitable Trusts on the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project, which provides nonpartisan analysis and evidence-based recommendations to make sure all foods and beverages sold in U.S. schools are healthy and safe.