This morning the United States Department of Agriculture announced a multi-step process for updating school meal nutrition standards that recognizes current supply chain challenges facing school nutrition programs while charting a course towards making school meals even healthier in the long term. Step one in this process is the issuance today of a short-term rule on whole grains, dairy and salt; in the second phase, standards will continue to evolve in collaboration with school professionals and other key stakeholders. The following is a statement from Share Our Strength Senior Vice President Lisa Davis:
“School meals are a critical source of nutrition for millions of children, many of whom live in food insecure families. The meals they receive from schools already adhere to a strong nutrition standard; a 2021 study which reviewed what Americans eat showed that ‘food consumed at schools had the highest quality,’ beating out food from grocery stores, worksites, and restaurants. This nutrition helps build their growing brains and bodies, and is linked to increased classroom focus, better health, fewer illnesses, higher graduation rates and stronger overall wellbeing.
We applaud USDA for recognizing that any changes toward healthier meal standards must include recognition of the significant supply chain shortages and increased costs challenging school meal programs. The new short-term rule will go into effect for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. More improvements will be proposed in the future with input from school professionals and other stakeholders, for a multi-step process that offers a pragmatic path toward healthier meals for students and a practical, achievable path forward for school nutrition programs.
Supporting our schools in this is essential. Across our nation, schools have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to continue to feed children, even as they’ve faced daunting challenges like new COVID variants, increased hunger and need among the students they serve, and global supply chain issues. As a result, even during times of great chaos and need, millions of children were able to get more of the good nutrition they needed to grow up strong.
We can continue to make sure kids are nourished by allowing schools to have the time and support they need to serve meals today while working to develop pragmatic, efficient plans to make those meals even healthier in the future.
At the same time, it is also important to make sure schools have the flexibility to adapt programs, even as they face current challenges and prepare to transition to normal operations. For this to happen, it is also critical that Congress authorizes the USDA to grant waivers through the next school year.”
About No Kid Hungry
No child should go hungry in America. But millions don’t know where their next meal is coming from. No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger by helping launch and improve programs that give all kids the healthy food they need to thrive. This is a problem we know how to solve. No Kid Hungry is a campaign by Share Our Strength, an organization working to end hunger and poverty. Learn more at www.NoKidHungry.org.