- In 2008 alone, the US National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provided lunch to more than 30.5 million children in the US.
- In the same year, the US School Breakfast Program (SBP) provided breakfast to 10.5 million children.
- 16.3% of these children (ages between 2 and 19 years) are obese
Considering that school children spend a large portion of their waking hours at school and have at least one meal there each school day, it is just right that the standards of NSLP and SBP be placed under scrutiny. The standards were set in1995 for Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements. That’s 14 years ago. Do the standards still meet the dietary requirement of the children based on current state of evidence? Do the standards help promote or prevent obesity?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released the report School Meals: Building Blocks for Healthy Children. The committee behind the report feels it is about time to update the standards and recommended a new approach that clearly focuses on providing meals that are consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans set by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The IOM report recommends adopting standards in menu planning in order to:
- increase the amount and variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;
- set a minimum and maximum level of calories; and
- increase the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat and sodium provided.
The report acknowledges that these changes may lead to higher costs but it is an expense worth paying for the health and well-being of the children.
In addition to these recommendations, new implementation and monitoring procedures are also recommended.
Health groups and professional associations commend the new IOM report and recommendations. According to a statement by American Heart Association President Dr. Clyde Yancy:
“The association is pleased that IOM’s recommendations have been provided to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in an effort to improve the nutrition environment in our nation’s schools. We are advocating strongly for quick implementation of these standards within Child Nutrition Reauthorization along with the passage of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act to strengthen nutritional standards for drinks and snacks foods sold in school vending machines and school stores. There have been recent impressive reductions in access to high sugar beverages but more needs to be done. We continue to work with states to pass and implement effective local wellness policies across the country that include strong provisions for nutrition education and promotion.”
Another group which applauds the report is the United Fresh Produce Association. According to its Vice President of Nutrition and Health Dr. Lorelei DiSogra:
Photo credit: stock.xchng