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Healthiness of school and daycare meals affected by federal policy changes

school lunch veggiesOver at Food Politics earlier this week, New York University nutrition expert Marion Nestle, PhD, gave a good update on two policy changes that affect the health value of the food served to children in childcare and at school. One change is positive: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is making sure that food served in child and adult care programs complies with the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a modification that should ensure that kids in daycare get more fruits and veggies and less sugar and fat.

The other change, the House version of the child nutrition reauthorization bill, would weaken several aspects of school food standards if passed as is. Nestle characterizes this as "bad news" and rounds up reaction from different public health experts:

The Hagstrom Report quotes Margo Wootan of Center for Science in the Public Interest saying that the House bill will:

  • Freeze sodium reduction for at least three years.
  • Require yet another scientific review of sodium.
  • Weaken the whole grain standards.
  • Let junk food back into schools
  • Allow schools to replace fresh produce with dried (without a sugar limit), canned (without a sodium or sugar limit), and frozen fruits and vegetables, thereby allowing schools to replace fresh apples and carrots with sugary fruit snacks, potato chips, jam, or trail mix containing candy.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says this bill will increase food insecurity among children.

"School food advocates: it’s time to get busy," she concluded.

Previously: Classroom cupcakes: Should "party foods" at schools be limited?, Food allergies and school: One mom's perspective and USDA urges school to purchase food from local farmers
Photo of school lunch veggies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

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