Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced major initiatives at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will support and enhance the health of America's children through nutritious school meals.
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“Our commitment to the school meal programs comes from a common goal we all share – keeping kids healthy and helping them reach their full potential,” said Vilsack.
“Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future.
"We must all step up to support child health if we are to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration's goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related diseases by 2030, in accordance with the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. Strengthening school meals is one of the best ways we can achieve that goal.”
Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA continues to support efforts to enhance the health and quality of life of America’s children by:
Proposing gradual updates to science-based nutrition standards in school meals
Recognizing school districts that have gone above and beyond in nutritional quality
Assisting small and rural school districts in improving the nutritional quality of school meals
In alignment with the Administration’s and Department’s commitment to giving kids a healthy start, Vilsack shared proposed updates to the school meal standards to reflect the latest nutrition science. These updates focus on a few targeted areas that will support even healthier meals for kids on a timeline that reflects critical input from school nutrition professionals, public health experts, industry, and parents.
FNS is proposing a gradual, multi-year approach to implementing a few important updates to the nutrition standards to support healthy kids. These include:
Limiting added sugars in certain high-sugar products and, later, across the weekly menu;
Allowing flavored milk in certain circumstances and with reasonable limits on added sugars;
Incrementally reducing weekly sodium limits over many school years; and
Emphasizing products that are primarily whole grain, with the option for occasional non-whole grain products.
In some of these areas, FNS proposes different options and requests input on which would best achieve the goal of improving child health while also being practical and realistic to implement. ■