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Nutrition, Health and Education Advocates Applaud Historic Improvements to Meals Served in America's Schools

New Standards Will Improve the Health and Wellbeing of 32 Million Kids Nationwide

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25. 2012 – First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled new standards for school meals that will result in healthier meals for kids across the nation. The new meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in more than fifteen years and improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day. The healthier meal requirements are a key component of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which was championed by the First Lady as part of her Let's Move! campaign and signed in to law by President Obama. Nutrition, health and education advocates applauded the new standards and reiterated their commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of kids nationwide.

Linda Davis-Alldritt, President, National Association of School Nurses

"Nutritious lunches eaten at school not only help the children in their academic performance, but also ensure that students have the energy to perform in physical education classes. School nurses worked hard for the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act because they have a critical role in teaching about and encouraging healthy food choices. The USDA is to be commended for helping turn the tide on obesity among school-aged children."

Jose Andres, Chef and Owner of ThinkFoodGroup

"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."

James A. "Jamie" Barnett, Rear Admiral, US Navy (Retired), MISSION: READINESS

"Obesity is the leading medical reason why young adults are unable to join the military, with one in four too overweight to enlist. The retired generals and admirals of Mission: Readiness strongly supported passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and today's announcement is an important step in helping reduce calories, fat and sodium in school meals so our obesity crisis does not become a national security crisis."

Jessica Donze Black RD, MPH, Director of the Kid's Safe and Healthful Foods Project Pew Charitable Trusts

"We applaud the U.S. Department of Agriculture for issuing final guidance to help schools across the country serve healthier meals. The focus on improving school meals comes at a critical time for children's health as young people increasingly suffer from diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Not only are these changes good for students, but they also give parents more assurance that schools support their efforts to provide healthy foods to their kids. Indeed, thousands of schools already are serving healthier meals and demonstrating successful approaches. USDA's final nutrition guidance provides a roadmap for all schools to follow in their efforts to promote a a healthy learning environment."

Robert W. Block, MD FAAP, President, American Academy of Pediatrics

"The American Academy of Pediatrics would like to commend First Lady Michelle Obama and the USDA for their commitment to improving children's health through better nutrition as a result of these new standards. For more than half a century, the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs have alleviated hunger and malnutrition among our nation's children and adolescents, and since their inception, the school meal programs have served as tools to promote healthy child development and growth. The finalized school meal standards are the strongest to date, and provide more fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and overall healthier meals for our children. These standards will undoubtedly make significant improvements in the health of all our nation's children."

Nancy Brown, CEO, American Heart Association

"Learning to make nutritious food choices at an early age is an important lesson for America's children. We strongly believe these new standards for school meals will help the nation's youth develop healthy food habits that will help lower obesity rates and ensure that the next generation can lead lives free of heart disease and stroke."

Debbie Chang, Vice President of Policy and Prevention, Nemours

"Nemours, a children's health system, congratulates the United States Department of Agriculture on the new and improved nutrition standards for meals. We know that good nutrition is vital to children's healthy development and that it factors into their ability to learn and achieve in school. Federal nutrition programs play a particularly important role for families, contributing to children's nutrition, overall health and growth, and school readiness."

Lorelei DiSogra, EdD, R.D., Vice President, Nutrition and Health, United Fresh Produce Association

"We are very excited that fruits and vegetables will be the stars of healthier school meals. Children like fresh fruits and vegetables and they will be eating more next school year when this regulation takes effect. Increasing children's consumption of fruits and vegetables will improve their health and reduce their risk of childhood obesity. We support this landmark effort by First Lady Michelle Obama and USDA to create healthier school meals and healthier school food environments for millions of America's children."

Vicki Escarra, President & CEO, Feeding America

"Feeding America applauds First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to bring needed attention to the importance of child nutrition as our nation tackles the dual challenges of childhood obesity and child hunger. We commend Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his timely implementation of the landmark 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, including today's announcement of improved school nutrition standards. The number of children at risk daily of not securing nutritionally adequate meals has skyrocketed during the current economic downturn. Today's announcement is especially important for low-income children, whose families are more likely to struggle to access both enough food and the most nutritious food. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act brought us a big step closer to ensuring that children have the nutrition they need to learn, grow, and thrive both in and out of school and increases their opportunity to reach their highest potential."

Dan Glickman, Senior fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center and former secretary, USDA

"For the first time in 15 years, the school meal guidelines have been revised, as directed by Congress in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. I applaud USDA for its leadership in developing evidence-based guidance on improving school meals, grounded in the conclusions of the recent Institute of Medicine recommendations and aligned with the 2010 USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines. These new rules will ensure that students are offered fruits, vegetables and more whole grains, along with low or no-fat dairy products, on a daily basis. These foods are cornerstones of a healthy diet, and schools are one of several important environments that shape kids' eating habits. A number of schools have already shown that menus can be updated in ways that provide tasty and healthy offerings that appeal to kids of all ages. We all have a part to play in improving the health of our nation's children. The USDA's new standards are an important step in the right direction."

Nicole V. Lang, MD

"Washington Pediatric Associates, PC wholeheartedly supports the First Lady, Michelle Obama, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the implementation of the New Nutrition Standards for Meals Served in America's Schools. As a prominent Washington, DC-based pediatric practice, I see first-hand how poor dietary choices for children can negatively impact a child's overall growth and well being. These New Nutritional Standards will play a pivotal role in providing smarter and healthier dietary choices for our children, and will inevitably have a significant impact on our nationwide epidemic of childhood obesity."

Penny McConnell, Director, Food and Nutrition Services, Fairfax County Public Schools

"Like all child nutrition directors, I looked forward to the release of the new Nutrition Standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. As a registered dietitian I support the new standards and their reflection of the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I also commend the food based-meal pattern which will complement our classroom nutrition education activities. The additional time to implement the breakfast changes will assist us with menu planning and the extension of the sodium targets will enable industry to reformulate products to meet program needs and students' acceptance. The Energy Zone, Fairfax County Public Schools implements the Healthier US School Challenge (HUSSC) standards and the new standards reflect several of these. For several years we have served whole grain foods, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low fat and fat free milk, limited saturated fat, and zero trans fats.

The new standards will require more time, effort and assistance for districts that have not yet implemented HUSSC standards. However, as with any regulation change child nutrition directors will make it work because we value the important role we play in our students' nutritional well being."

Helen Philips, President, School Nutrition Association

"We are grateful to the First Lady for her leadership on obesity, the nation's number one public health challenge. Our nation's schools have an important role to play and the regulations released today will move us forward. SNA is strongly supported the requirement that school meals adhere to the Dietary Guidelines and our 55,000 members, serving 32 million children a day are committed to this challenge. We thank the First Lady for her leadership, passion and focus on this critical issue."

Mary Pat Raimondi, MS RD, Vice President, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

"The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) supports with pleasure the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the new USDA school meals regulations. School nutrition directors (many of whom are Registered Dietitians), across the country are already serving healthy, delicious meals to improve the health of our children. These meal standards will support their efforts and assure continuous improvement in the meals served.

Given the realities of federal, state, and local budgets, we are committed to help lead creative collaboration to implement changes in school food programs. The Academy believes that our children deserve our best efforts to work together to provide good nutrition in schools nationwide."

Bill Shore, Founder and Executive Director, Share Our Strength

"Two-thirds of elementary school teachers surveyed by Share Our Strength told us that "most" or "a lot" of their students rely on school meals as their primary source of nutrition. Share Our Strength applauds the First Lady and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for enhancing the nutrition standards for school meals, a critical component of ensuring all kids - especially those who rely on free and reduced price schools meals - get the healthy foods they need each day."

Virginia A. Stallings, MD, IOM Committee Representative and Director, Nutrition Center Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

"Optimizing the school food environment and the foods and beverages consumed in school will directly improve child health. These are big changes and we must continue to support timely the understanding and implementation of this initiative."

Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association

"On behalf of the more than 3 million members of the National Education Association, I applaud the new and improved nutrition standards resulting from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. NEA proudly represents the school food service workers who are the ambassadors of change, educating students on making nutritional choices that are vital to a healthy lifestyle. We thank First Lady Michelle Obama for her vision and work on this most critical issue."

Jim Weill, President, FRAC

"The new USDA nutrition standards for school meals are extraordinarily important to the health and learning of America's school children. Nearly 32 million children eat lunch at school every day; more than 20 million of them are low-income children whose families are struggling to make ends meet. School meals are crucial to these children, and the new standards will go a long way to remedy nutritional shortfalls and help address the nation's obesity problem. The Food Research and Action Center looks forward to working with the Administration to ensure that the gains of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and these regulations are implemented quickly and successfully, and that the school meal programs reach increasing numbers of eligible, hungry children."

Margo G. Wootan, D.Sc., Director, Nutrition Policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest

"The new school meal standards are one of the most important advancements in nutrition in decades," said the Center for Science in the Public Interest's nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. "They're much needed, given high childhood obesity rates and the poor state of our children's diets. Now, states, school officials, food manufacturers, food service workers, and parents need to work together with USDA to help all schools meet the new standards."


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