WASHINGTON, D.C., February 3, 2023 — The American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, issued the following statement in response to today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of a proposed rule that would more closely align school meal nutrition standards with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans:
“The USDA has issued a strong proposal that is based on the latest nutrition science and would make the meals children eat at school healthier. By proposing to limit the amount of added sugars in school meals for the first time ever, the USDA is taking a major step toward helping children achieve a more nutritious diet and better health. Added sugars are a significant source of excess calories, provide no nutritional value and may cause weight gain and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. The Association and our public health partners last year filed a citizen petition with the USDA calling for an added sugars standard in the school meals program, and we are pleased to see such a standard in this proposal.
“The updated standards also would continue critical reductions of sodium in school meals. More than 90 percent of children consume too much sodium, and taste preferences – including those for salty food – begin early in life. The new sodium reductions would be phased in over time to help schools make the transition, and the proposed limits would be achievable for schools and effectively lower sodium consumption. To help schools continue their sodium reduction efforts, we hope USDA will call for even greater sodium reductions in the future.
“We appreciate that the proposed standards continue to emphasize the importance of whole grains. While we would like to see USDA reinstate the 100% whole grain-rich requirement, the proposed standard would still encourage whole grain consumption while giving schools some flexibility when menu planning.
“The proposed standards are a significant step toward aligning the school meal program with the Dietary Guidelines while also ensuring the standards are feasible for schools. A recent study showed that even while dealing with challenges presented by the pandemic, most schools were still able to implement nutrition standards, including being at or very close to the current sodium targets. These updated standards would help schools build on that progress.
“We urge the USDA to quickly move forward with this rule, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Department to further strengthen the sodium and whole grain standards to help our children thrive and put even healthier meals on the table.”
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
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