Tuesday, April 12, 2011

2 Best Ways to Comment on USDA Healthy School Lunch Rules

The USDA proposed rule, Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, is open to your comments through tomorrow, April 13, 2011. The “ultimate food fight” has brought out heated debates from all sides, a strong indication how important your support is for healthy foods in schools.

1. The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has organized a comment form with text you can edit and submit to USDA from their site: https://secure3.convio.net/advoc/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=516

2. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) has a model letter and sample text to assist in submitting your comments. FRAC model letter FRAC sample text

All things considered, the fact is that the National School Lunch Program is going to remain and the proposed rule will make it healthier than it has been. The USDA proposed rule would increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk in school meals; and reduce the levels of sodium and saturated fat in meals. Schools also would be required to stay within the appropriate calorie ranges for each of three age/grade groups, and require students to take a fruit or vegetable serving at each meal. Realistically implementing the changes is going to be a challenge, yes, but not impossible.

Consider those school lunch programs across the country who have already made healthy changes without any increase in reimbursement from the government. How? They have school nutrition staff PLUS people outside of school nutrition – both in the school and in the community - who support healthy eating. They have a school environment that is also supportive of healthy eating. It doesn’t happen overnight either. These schools have put a system into place that has often taken years of cooperation and collaboration from all involved – from students and parents all the way to superintendents and state governments.

Rules will be passed, and with those rules come challenges of school, student, and community support for them; and of proper training and technical assistance in implementing them. Without these elements, we end up with stories like that from the Chicago Tribune and the L.A. Times.

If you'd like additional background information on the issues, click on the link here to the April 5th edition of Education Week online: Ultimate Food Fight Erupts as Feds Recook School Lunch Rules

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