Tell USDA: I Want Strong School Food Nutrition Rules!

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The USDA announced an interim final rule that would weaken school food nutrition standards.

The rule, effective 2018-2019, would allow schools to serve 1% and nonfat flavored and non-flavored milk, apply for an exemption to serve refined grains over whole grains, and allow schools to not reduce salt levels in meals. Health experts say this rolls back progress to improve school nutrition and children’s health.

What do you think?

Fortunately, you have a limited time—until Jan. 29 2018—to tell USDA you want better school food for Latino and all families!

Submit a Model Comment

Copy one of three model public comments developed by our Salud America! research team, then hit the submit button to paste it to USDA’s website…

MODEL COMMENT: GENERAL
For the health of Latino and all children, I urge the USDA to maintain strong nutrition standards for meals served in schools. Providing “flexibility” by allowing schools to serve grains that are not whole-grain-rich and flavored milk with 1% fat would constitute a direct contradiction of the current dietary guidelines and result in a step back on the progress already made in promoting a healthier lifestyle, a healthy weight, and overall health equity. About 1 in 3 Latino families live in poverty, and 1 in 4 are food insecure, according to a 2017 Salud America! research review. For many Latino kids, school is their only chance to get a well-balanced meal. That’s why I urge you now to keep the bar high when it comes to serving nutritious food in schools across America and not reduce the nutritional quality of school food.

Submit this comment to USDA!

MODEL COMMENT: PARENTS
My kids deserve healthy meals at school. I strongly urge the USDA to no allow any changes to the interim final rule on school meals and child nutrition programs. Such actions will negatively impact not only my family, but also Latino and all communities and will jeopardize much of the gains made in decreasing national childhood obesity rates. Healthy school meals offer much-needed nutrition to kids. This is especially true for the 1 in 3 Latino kids who participate in free and reduced price lunch programs. As a concerned parent, I urge you now to keep healthy nutrition standards in place, and not reduce the nutritional quality of food served to kids at school.

Submit this comment to USDA!

MODEL COMMENT: EDUCATORS
As an educator, I know the importance of healthy school meals to having children who perform well in the classroom. By 2020, 1 in 3 public school children will be Latino. Many of these children participate in the National School Lunch Program. Research shows that healthy children learn better, yet more than 39% of Latino kids are at an unhealthy weight and often face less healthy school environments than their peers, according to a Salud America! research review. I strongly urge you NOT to decrease the nutritional value of meals served to children by weakening school nutrition guidelines. With chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and cancer disproportionately affecting minority communities, we must protect the nutritional value of food served to these and all children across America.

Submit this comment to USDA!
You can also tweak any of the above comments to your liking, or submit your own original comment.

Why Is This Important?

Kids consume a significant portion of their daily calories at school.

That makes school meals critical to their growth and development. Poor nutrition can impact a child’s classroom performance and affect their health for a lifetime.

Latina girls choosing chocolate milk in school lunch lineUnfortunately, Latino kids have more access than whites to unhealthy foods and drinks in schools, according to a recent research review by Salud America!

That same review also found schools with more Latino students tend to have weaker policies for school snacks and drinks, and may be less likely to implement nutritional guidelines.

“School policy and decision makers should prioritize helping schools in Latino communities effectively implement federal nutrition standards,” according to the review. “Schools should also consider nutritional education that covers schools and the surrounding food environment.”

The New Rules

The new USDA rules give local food service professionals the “flexibility they need to serve wholesome, nutritious, and tasty meals in schools across the nation,” according to a news release.

“Based on the feedback we’ve gotten from students, schools, and food service professionals in local schools across America, it’s clear that many still face challenges incorporating some of the meal pattern requirements,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in the news release.

“Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat. It doesn’t do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can. These flexibilities give schools the local control they need to provide nutritious meals that school children find appetizing.”

Latina girl drinsk white milk at school lunch or breakfastHowever, health experts argue such flexibility isn’t needed.

Many schools are already complying with the final nutrition standards, including the first phase of sodium reduction, said Margo Wooten of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“The USDA should not be allowing dangerously high levels of salt in school meals, which may currently have two-thirds of a day’s sodium, or 1,420 milligrams, in a single high school lunch,” Wootan said in a statement.

“Nine out of 10 school-aged children are eating too much salt, which is why reducing sodium levels in school meals is so important. The USDA should be doubling down on helping schools reduce sodium, not slowing down progress, as the Trump administration proposed today.”

Again, what do you think?

Submit your comment to USDA now!

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By The Numbers By The Numbers

74

percent

of Latino kids have had a sugary drink by age 2 (vs. 45% of white kids).

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