ATLANTA, August 16, 2011—USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe today highlighted Obama administration efforts to improve school nutrition and foster healthy lifestyle choices by America’s school-age children during a visit to Sherwood Acres Elementary Magnet School in Albany, Ga.
Rowe said key reforms enacted through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 will improve the nutritional quality of school meals and strengthen the school environment for the nation’s schoolchildren. Rowe also lauded USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge, which is designed to improve school nutrition and expand opportunities for physical activity.
“By providing America’s children with the healthiest foods possible while at school,” she said, “we can reinforce the healthy lifestyles that many parents are already teaching their children at home, which will put them in a position to thrive, grow and ultimately reach their full potential.”
As children head back to school this fall USDA will work with schools on improving the nutritional quality of food sold to children through six major components supported by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act:
- Updated nutrition standards for school meals based on expert recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. USDA is reviewing over 132,000 comments from schools, States, parents and others on a proposed rule in order to complete a final rule.
- Science-based standards for all foods sold in school. These first ever national standards will ensure that foods and beverages sold in vending machines and other venues on school campuses contribute to a healthy diet.
- Increased funding for schools. The Act made the first real increase in school meal payments in 30 years – tied to strong performance in serving improved meals. The criteria to earn the increase will be ready when updated standards go into effect.
- Common-sense standards for revenue provided to school food authorities from non-Federal sources, to ensure that these revenues keep pace with the Federal commitment to healthy school meals and properly align with costs.
- Training and technical assistance to help schools achieve and monitor compliance. We are planning new training strategies to accompany the new nutrition standards.
- Healthy offerings through the USDA Foods program. USDA Foods are a critical part of the National School Lunch Program, constituting approximately 15-20% of the school lunch plate. Guided by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, USDA has made sweeping changes in the nutritional quality of these foods to further reduce fat, sodium, and added sugars. The Act requires the Department to purchase a wide variety of USDA Foods that support healthy meals and develop model specifications for foods purchased and served in the National School Lunch Program.
These school food improvements will be supported by other changes in the school environment, such as physical activity and nutrition education reforms, and strengthened local school wellness policies. The Act expands the scope of these policies and increases transparency and local participation. HHKFA provisions in effect this year to increase access to critical nutrition programs includes:
- Promoting School Breakfast Programs. Research has shown that starting the day with a nutritious breakfast helps students stay alert and perform better in school.
- Expanding At-Risk Afterschool Meals to all states participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program
Administrator Rowe also recognized hundreds of schools that have already made great progress toward achieving school meals reforms – and can serve as models for others seeking to make improvements. She announced that we reached our goal with more than 1,250 schools receiving HealthierUS School Challenge honors for expanding nutrition and physical activity opportunities. Last year, the First Lady and USDA challenged the nation’s communities to double the number of HUSSC schools within a year – reaching 1,250 schools by the end of June 2011. HUSSC is a key component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let's Move! initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. USDA also took the opportunity to launch the Healthy Access Locator, a web-based resource that geographically pinpoints HUSSC award-winning schools and features built-in data on diet-related diseases.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service oversees 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. The programs work together to form a national safety net against hunger. The National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs provide nutritionally balanced, free and low-cost meals to nearly 32 million school children each school day. SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, puts healthy food in reach for more than 44 million Americans each month, half of whom are children.