Natural Products Insider

JAN-FEB 2019

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naturalproductsinsider . com 5 In the News More sugar! More salt! More crunch! More obesity! More diabetes! Lower test scores! We don't need no education, not when corporate subsidies and the challenge of healthier product innovation is at play. The healthier school lunch program, championed by then-fi rst lady Michelle Obama, was passed in 2010. Called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, its purpose was to offer healthier meal options as part of the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which subsidize meals to 32 million students daily. The standards increased the availability of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, increased the portion sizes of fruits and vegetables offered, required the selection of a fruit or vegetable, limited the number of calories and sodium levels, and removed trans fats entirely. The number of kids eating fruits and vegetables increased, and some data indicated they also may have achieved higher test scores. The new plan will allow for more refi ned carbohydrates, sodium and sugar. Defenders of the new plan complained that healthier school lunches would lead to substantially more food waste because kids don't want to eat healthy foods. USDA published in the Federal Register on Dec. 12 its new rule, which gives local schools the option of creating whatever types of school breakfasts and lunches they would like. A press release by USDA in cementing the rollback had the headline, "Ag Secretary Perdue Moves to Make School Meals Great Again." In a subtitle, it said allowing schools to include more refi ned carbohydrates, more sodium and more sugar-sweetened fl avored milk will "make meals healthful, appealing." "Children all across America deserve world-class food service—and schools are best positioned to deliver that service in their communities," said USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Brandon Lipps. "USDA is committed to providing local schools fl exibilities they need to do what they do best—serve our kids nutritious meals they want to eat." "They want to eat." That's the key phrase. USDA said it was taking the step to make meal-planning easier for schools and to entice more children to eat healthful food. The number of students eating meals at school peaked in 2010 and has dropped by about 8 percent since: In 2010, 5.2 million students ate school lunch, but by 2017, it was 4.8 million, according to USDA. "Schools want to offer food that students actually want to eat," Perdue said in a statement. "It doesn't do any good to serve nutritious meals if they wind up in the trash can." Although there are 400,000 fewer school children participating in the program since the improved health standards went into effect, some would argue 4.8 million students are eating better. American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown was critical of the new rule, saying it "deserves an 'F.'" Brown said in a statement, "This new rule is described as an effort to give the nation's schools more 'fl exibility' on what foods to serve our children. But the truth is it would revoke school nutrition standards that will help kids attain better long-term health and academic success." "Think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap," Obama stated at a 2017 public health summit in Washington. "Because here is the secret: If somebody is doing that, they don't care about your kid." The healthier school lunch program is tied up in a lot of politics—from Republican politicians who don't want the federal government telling anyone what to do, to foodservice giants that make a lot of money from government contracts and might not want to be challenged by having to reformulate healthier food options. Studies Support Better Nutrition Studies have been conducted since the healthier school mandate went into effect. This science supported the potential benefi t of healthier school meals. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted a study during the 2013 school year in four low-income, urban school districts in Massachusetts grades 3 to 8. They found the new policy led to a 23 percent increase in fruit selection and a 16.2 percent increase in vegetable consumption, though taking away sugar-sweetened chocolate and strawberry milks, as well as whole milk, led to a decline from 64 percent of students drinking milk to 54 percent after the policy implementation. "Contrary to public concerns, the new school meal standards did not lead to increases in meal waste for entrées, fruits or vegetables in this urban, low-income population," the researchers concluded. "This study suggests that further weakening of the new school meals standards should not be considered, as this could potentially lead to decreased fruit and vegetable selection and consumption." In 2017, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, assessed whether healthier school lunches would lead to an improvement in test scores, and found it did: 0.03 to 0.04 standard deviations higher (about 4 percentile points) on end-of-year academic tests. In addition, they found test-score increases were 40 percent higher for students who qualify for reduced-price or free school lunches— the ones who are most likely to eat the school lunches. While it is too early to tell whether the long-range motivations—childhood obesity and developing healthier lifelong eating habits—were also working, the healthier school lunches did not appear to lead to more food waste, and led to more school kids eating more fruits and vegetables and attaining higher test scores. Which is to say, the evidence may show it was Obama who did something to help make America's schoolchildren great again. Trump Rolls Back Michelle Obama's Healthy School Lunch Program by Todd Runestad

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