By Maren Stewart, Anne Warhover and Chris Watney
New USDA school food nutritional guidelines add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk to school meals and are based on Institute of Medicine recommendations. While these standards represent an opportunity to improve student health, which research shows correlates to improved academic achievement, some leaders have voiced opposition.
Their argument against the new nutrition guidelines focuses on the proposed rule to limit potatoes in school meals. Many schools have relied on starches to fulfill daily vegetable requirements while limiting other vegetable choices. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that kids eat a wide variety of vegetables to get all the nutrients they need—exactly what the proposed guidelines intend to do.
The USDA will help schools address increased costs by raising lunch reimbursement by 6 cents per meal and requiring food revenues to remain in food service. The $6.8 billion is a worthy investment considering obesity costs the U.S. $270 billion annually.
For many students, school meals represent their only source of balanced nutrition. And it’s a fact—well-fed, healthy kids learn better. We encourage leaders to support this opportunity to prevent obesity and nourish our children who need it most.
Maren Stewart is president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado; Anne Warhover is president and CEO of The Colorado Health Foundation; and Chris Watney is president and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign.