On Wednesday afternoon, first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled new USDA nutrition rules for public schools, calling for more fruits and vegetables and less fat and sodium in the publicly funded meals programs. The new guidelines raised the nutritional standards for the first time in 15 years.
Reactions to the guidelines, designed to comply with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, have been generally positive, although some public advocates didn’t like that the USDA caved to the food industry over the government’s attempt to limit tomato paste and potatoes.
“The only disappointment is that Congress did not allow USDA to limit french fries, and that they were forced to continue to count pizza as a vegetable,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told The Post. “But at least that pizza will be lower in sodium and have a whole-grain crust and be served with an additional vegetable on the side.”
But by and large, nutritionists and advocates applauded the new standards. Here’s a sampling of the initial reactions:
“A healthier population will save billions of dollars in future health-care costs,” Dawn Undurraga, staff nutritionist for the Environmental Working Group told Reuters.
“The future of America is about our children, about making sure that the foods they eat allow them to become meaningful members of our communities. Good food is the beginning of a better tomorrow,” said chef-restaurateur Jose Andres in a news release issued by the USDA.
“These changes to school food standards are welcome, commendable and unquestionably helpful in efforts to combat childhood obesity and all of the metabolic mayhem that follows in its wake,” David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, told U.S. News and World Report.
“This announcement may just move The First Lady’s goal of reducing obesity in a generation a step closer to reality,” wrote Phil Lempert, chief executive, editor and columnist for SupermarketGuru.com.
“And those fries and pizzas aren’t going anywhere, because if the relationship between school lunch and the corporate control of politics isn’t more obvious, the big businesses who have big contracts to supply the big districts with their big orders of frozen food have some big money and power to throw around,” wrote Lindsay William-Ross in LAist.
“So now, when you go home from a long day at work, you can feel better about what your child ate for lunch at school. And at home, you can use these guidelines as well so that you and the school are working as a team to make sure your son or daughter is the healthiest he or she can be,” wrote Hansa Bhargava on WebMd.com.
“We look forward to seeing schools across the country prepare and serve more nutritious meals in the 2012-2013 school year. The new standards are strong, and local administrators can continue to make even more improvements on their own. Indeed, thousands of schools already are serving healthier meals and can demonstrate successful approaches. USDA’s final nutrition guidance provides a roadmap for all schools to follow in their efforts to promote a healthy learning environment,” wrote Jessica Donze Black, project director for the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project.
“These national nutrition standards will help school nutrition professionals build on their successes. For schools hampered by tight budgets or limited equipment and staff, School Nutrition Association will continue to provide training and support to help school nutrition professionals achieve the new meal pattern,” noted Helen Phillips, president of the School Nutrition Association.