Updated USDA nutrition standards will help schools start to bring back healthier meals, and more needs to be done
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 4, 2022 - American Heart Association President Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Sc.M., FAHA, issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of a final rule that establishes new nutrition standards for school years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program:
“The American Heart Association appreciates the Biden administration’s efforts to help schools address the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has placed an unprecedented strain on school meal programs, which are a key tool in the fight against food insecurity and help ensure that children across the nation are eating healthy, nutritious food.
“This new rule will help bring stability to schools as they continue to operate in an uncertain environment and put healthier foods back on the menu. By clarifying the standards for sodium, whole grains and milk for the next two school years, this rule brings the meal standards closer to the strong, evidence-based standards that were adopted in 2012; however, closer will not ultimately be enough. These standards must be temporary and serve as a bridge to stronger nutrition standards based on the latest nutrition science.
“We support USDA’s plan to issue a new science-based proposal this fall that would align the school meal nutrition standards with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Those new standards, which would take effect for school year 2024-2025, should require schools to offer a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and more whole grains, which are key components of a healthy diet. The new standards must also limit the amount of saturated fat and sodium, including moving forward with the sodium targets contained in the 2012 rule and developing a fourth sodium target that further lowers sodium consumption in younger children.
“We also continue to urge USDA to limit the amount of added sugars. Added sugars are a significant source of excess calories in children’s diets and provide no nutritional value, yet there is currently no limit on the amount of added sugars school meals can contain. That is why we recently joined the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the American Public Health Association in a citizen petition asking USDA to adopt an added sugars standard. The creation of an added sugars standard would have a tremendous impact on children’s health.
“We look forward to working with USDA as it continues to update the school meals standards to better reflect current dietary guidelines and put healthier meals back on the table. We urge the Biden Administration and Congress to continue prioritizing children’s health by protecting and strengthening school meal nutrition standards. These will be important steps in promoting greater lifelong health for all children.”
About the American Heart Association
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