USDA Delay of School Meal Guidelines for Whole Grains and Sodium
By Dr. Howell Wechsler, CEO Alliance for a Healthier Generation
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s announcement today that the federal government will delay implementation of school nutrition standards aimed at reducing sodium and increasing whole grains does not reflect the tremendous progress and success we have seen from thousands of schools across the country in meeting or exceeding national guidelines for healthier school meals.
Our Healthy Schools Program has worked with more than 35,000 schools to implement healthier meals that meet federal nutrition standards required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which were derived from the best scientific evidence of our children’s dietary needs.
Time and time again, we have seen that schools can offer meals and snacks that are appealing to students while meeting nutrition standards — when they receive the appropriate training, tools and resources to meet the standards. We have seen first-hand that, when provided with adequate support, school leaders are eager to make changes, students are enthusiastic about healthier meals, and parents are overwhelming supportive of healthy changes.
Providing students with appealing, nutritious school meals is not easy — it takes a lot of work. But shouldn’t our schools be setting an example for our students about the importance of working hard to meet critical goals? We would not lower standards for reading, writing and arithmetic just because students found them challenging subjects, and we should not do it for school nutrition either.
We need to give schools the support they need to keep our children healthy, rather than giving them an excuse to avoid making essential improvements. If we are to make the next generation a healthier generation, our schools must strive to meet the strong nutrition standards for meals and snacks that will strengthen the health of our children.
Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH
Chief Executive Officer
Alliance for a Healthier Generation