This U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), alarmed by the reality that about 25 million kids in the U.S. are obese or overweight, has proposed new regulations that will raise the nutrition standards for school meals for the first time in 15 years.
They include such common-sense ideas as limiting french fries, sodium and calories and offering students more fruits and vegetables.
The proposed rules would update the nutrition standards for meals served through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
First Major Improvement In School Meals In A Generation
From USA Today:
“This is the “first major improvement” in the standards that “we’ve seen in a generation, and it reflects the seriousness of the issue of obesity,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Extra pounds put children at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health problems. An analysis in 2005 found that children today may lead shorter lives by two to five years than their parents because of obesity.
Vilsack says addressing the childhood obesity problem is critical for kids’ health, future medical costs and national security, as so many young adults are too heavy to serve in the military.
These new regulations would ensure that the nearly 32 million children who eat lunch at school every day, and the almost 11 million who eat breakfast, will be served healthier meals based on sound nutrition guidance.
Sounds Like An Excellent Idea, Right?
Not according to some members of the Senate, who are trying to limit the USDA’s ability to put in place these new rules.
At a March Senate hearing on the USDA budget, Sen. Susan Collins (R – Maine) hoisted a standard-fare brown-skinned spud in one hand and, in the other, a head of iceberg lettuce, which hasn’t come under explicit federal scrutiny. One medium white potato contains nearly twice the vitamin C “as this entire head,” she said, asking: “So my question, Mr. Secretary, is what does the department have against potatoes?”
(Under the USDA proposal, school cafeterias would have to limit starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, peas and lima beans to a total of one cup per week for lunch.)
Proposed Rules Could Injure Potato, Corn, Lima Bean and Potato Growers
Senator Collins, along with Senator Mark Udall (D – Colorado), on July 14, 2011, wrote a letter to the USDA Committee on Appropriations in which they stated: “We are concerned that if implemented, the proposed rule could seriously and needlessly injure potato, corn, lima bean and potato growers around the country.”
So apparently business interests are of greater importance than the health of our school children?
Senator Kelly Ayotte (R- New Hampshire) wants the federal government to reconsider its new public school lunch requirements, saying they are going to cost school districts too much.
What about the costs of one third of our children and adolescents being overweight or obese? Are they worried about those costs?
Let’s Clean Up The School Nutrition Environment
As first reported in USA Today, cleaning up the “school nutrition environment” would make a big difference to kids’ diets — and teach them good eating habits that could affect them the rest of their lives, says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and an advocate of healthier school meals. “Kids learn by doing, and so serving a healthy meal is such an important part of their education.”
But if these senators who oppose the new rules get their way, we won’t be seeing healthy school lunches in cafeterias any time soon.
Take Action Now!
Please click here to sign our petition telling Congress that we want to see healthy menu items in our school cafeterias.
Photo Credit: iStock
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