In the News: Seriously Changing School Food

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By now you've heard the news stories about the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) astonishing report "Nutrition Standards for Foods Sold in Schools: Leading the Way toward a Healthier Youth". I saw it in USA Today, the Washington Post and all over the morning news. The report, commissioned by Congress, recommends pretty stringent guidelines for all foods sold on school campuses nationwide.

In a nutshell, the IOM purports that foods and beverages sold at school should benefit the health of all school aged children and youth. The report specifically hones in on what is referred to as "competitive foods". Competitive foods are any foods sold separately from the complete school cafeteria meal. This means everything else sold: in vending machines, the student store, as a la carte items (typically entrees and other foods sold on campus that aren't part of the full school meal) and for fundraising. We're really talking the snacks, candy, soft drinks and the like would be out.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) passed policies a few years ago that set strict nutrient standards that all competitive foods and beverages must adhere to in order to be sold on campus. We were ahead of the game (thank you LAUSD Board President Marlene Canter!!). The IOM report goes even further recommending that outside of the school meal program, schools sell only fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, low fat and non fat dairy foods. The high schools get slightly more leeway but not much.

This is really incredible, but this is not law. These are only recommendations by the IOM. Laws would have to be passed in Congress to make this a reality. It does look favorable however, after all Congress did ask for recommendations from the IOM. I'm sure they weren't expecting anything less. Additionally, nine senators are co-sponsoring the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act that if passed would make this a reality. Times may be a changin'.

So keep you ears out for more on this issue. And if you are for these kinds of nutrition standards in our schools, call and write to your Senators and your Representative of the House to let them know the community wants this.

If you're opposed, send me a comment and tell me why. It's important to know where both sides of the fence are coming from. You may have issue with these standards for reasons others may be naive to or just not thought of. Debate is good.

Click on the report title above to learn more and get the details. I barely touched on them.

Have a fruit and veggie filled weekend... this may actually become the norm!
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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