Congressional efforts to undermine school lunch nutrition standards implemented in 2012 could threaten progress in the fight against childhood obesity, according to an opinion piece in the October 29, 2014 New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
Critics of the standards, including some school officials and food-industry advocates, have raised concerns about increased food waste, decreased school-lunch participation, difficulties in meeting whole-grain and sodium goals, and potential for increased operating costs. But the authors of the NEJM article addressed these claims and stressed the importance of maintaining the current standards, which require more servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and less calories, trans fats and sodium in school lunches.
“The School Lunch Program provides meals to more than 30 million students a day, and few other programs that can protect against obesity and chronic diseases have such broad reach,” said co-author Elsie Taveras, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and chief of general pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital (MGH) for Children, in an MGH press release. “The recent politicization of the program and attempts to roll back the improvements that have been made represent to us — as pediatricians and public health practitioners — a threat to children’s health, development and academic success.”