If You’ve ever Fallen off the Wagon, You Should Support the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act

August 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

LGLisa Goddard
Advocacy and Online Marketing Director

Pop quiz:  According to current USDA regulations, what is a junk food?

a) Doughnuts

b) Snack cakes

c) Fruitades/Fruit Drinks (with little fruit – not 100% juice)

d) Seltzer water

Answer:  D

Confused?  You’re not alone.  USDA sets nutrition standards for foods sold at schools, but outside of school meals (such as vending machines, a la carte items and school stores) haven’t changed since the 1970s.  In fact, nutrition criteria for non-meal foods only apply to “foods of minimal nutritional value” and don’t address calories, saturated and trans-fats or sodium. So while little Suzie can’t get a breath mint with her onion-laden chili dog, she can get a side of fries and a candy bar.

junk food

Photo credit: shapingyouth.org

The Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act (H.R. 1324), one of the many bills up for review in the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, would update national school nutrition standards for foods and beverages sold outside of school meals to conform to current nutrition science.

So, how can this legislation help hungry Central Texas children?

By not using the same nutrition standards for junk food/non-food items as we do for the school lunch system, we undermine our investment in these nutrition programs.  Ultimately, the health of our children is undermined – especially low-income children.

States do have the option of exceeding USDA guidelines such as limiting access to competitive foods, or through stricter nutrition standards. Unfortunately, Texas has chosen to simply comply with USDA competitive food guidelines, leaving Texas children subject to these antiquated laws.

Why can’t we just focus on improving participation?

When school revenue is directly linked to the number of meals they serve, schools are forced to focus not on nutrition, but on pleasing the customer for maximum participation. In this School Lunch Talk interview, Leslie Phillips, business development director for Meriwhether Godsey, which runs the lunch program at Sidwell where President Obama’s girls attend school, explains how the retail model used by public schools makes it difficult for children to choose healthy, balanced meals.

If we are to address the problems food-insecure and hungry Texas children face during the school day and the life-long problems from poor nutrition, the answer isn’t to simply increase participation. We must also change incentives and nutrition standards so that profit doesn’t take precedence over nutrition.

If you’ve ever struggled with weight, or quitting cigarettes, or any other vice, you know how important a positive environment is for your success. Let’s make the lunchroom a place for positive experiential learning, where the most vulnerable children can make informed choices based on modern, scientific nutrition standards.

Take action: 
Support the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act by asking your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 1324. Click here to find your congressperson.


Nutrition and School Related Bills Passed in the 81st Legislative Session

SB 282          Sen. Jane Nelson                                     
Provides for grants for nutrition education and nutrition programs in early childhood programs.

 SB 1027       Sen. Kirk Watson                                  
Establishes a farm-to-school task force so public schools have more locally grown fresh food.

SB 395         Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr.                        
Creates a council to improve nutrition, health and physical activity in early childhood programs.

Bonus advocacy points: 

Tell your Texas legislative representatives that nutrition and health initiatives for low-income children remain a priority for you. Click here to find your representative.


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