New Survey Shows Wide Support for School Meal and Dietary Guidelines

14649007642_2d009fb970_zAccording to a survey sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a majority of Americans support the national school nutrition standards. The poll found that 9 out of 10 people in the United States support the national school nutrition standards, which were revised in 2010 as part of the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. Additionally, 86 percent of people asked say that school nutrition standards should stay the same or be strengthened.

Though the poll focused primarily on school nutrition, one question explored opinions of child care nutrition. 77 percent of respondents stated that they support expanding similar nutritional guidelines to early childhood education programs. This could be considered good news for the Department of Agriculture, which earlier this year proposed meal pattern updates to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) that are consistent with the National School Lunch Program. The proposed changes would align the meal pattern requirements for meals provided to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who receive meals in child care settings to the meals provided to children in school settings.

Improving the quality of food served in CACFP will have a large impact on the health and nutrition of children in this country. 3.3 million children receive meals and snacks through CACFP each day. USDA data shows that in 2014, 48.1 million Americans lived in households that struggler with hunger. For children living in those households that attend centers participating in CACFP, these meals are a vital source of energy and nutrition.

Some opponents to the revised meal patterns claim that the revisions will increase food waste as children will not eat the new foods presented to them. In fact, research shows that repeated exposure to food will increase their liking of it. In short—if they are served the food in the CACFP program over time, they may develop a taste for it over time. This will have a halo effect on preferences in the home and when the children move into the school lunch program as well.

The poll also found that as satisfaction with the nutritional quality of school lunches has increased, so do their concerns about obesity and hunger. 89 percent of respondents think that obesity is a crisis or a problem and 79 percent of respondents believe that food insecurity is a crisis or a problem.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation poll was developed to determine whether the public’s perception of nutrition in schools has changed since the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act revised nutritional standards for the National School Lunch Program in 2010. The poll results show that 67 percent of individuals asked believe that the nutritional quality of the food in their schools has increased since the new standards went into effect. 70 percent of respondents rate school lunches as good or excellent, which is an increase of 41 percent from the 2010 poll.

You can find more information about the 2015 School Food Poll here.

Photo caption: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, city, state and federal leadership, serve lunches to children at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, MD on Friday, Jul. 11, 2014. The visit highlights the USDA national campaign to expand access to healthy meals in the summer months and the Department’s efforts to reduce the impacts of poverty and food insecurity. (USDA photo by Lance Cheung.)

 

Reauthorization of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

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The reauthorization of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) has a congressional Fall deadline. The CACFP is a federal program serving more than 3 million children in child care, Head Start, and after school programs across the country. With more science and academic reports explaining the benefits of healthy diets for kids, Congress will need to appropriately fund the program in order to ensure access to quality and nutritious foods for all children.

Today, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the ‘Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015’ which would reduce the CACFP area eligibility from 50 percent to 40 percent to streamline access and expand eligibility to include more low-income children, give child care centers and family child care centers with the option of serving a reimbursable third meal, and increase the reimbursement rate for CACFP sponsoring organizations.

The science is there and statistics have proven that healthy, nutritious meals directly impact children’s ability to learn, cognitive development, physical development, emotions and social skills.

As child care providers, educators and community leaders we would encourage you to get involved by asking your member of Congress to support the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015.

Learn more about the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015 and share with your friends, family and colleagues.

Want to take action? FRAC has a toolkit you can use to schedule a visit for your member of Congress at a local CACFP site near you. Representatives are more likely to support and fund these programs if they see the work they do up close!

USDA Comment Period for Child and Adult Care Food Program Deadline April 15th

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently reviewing proposed rule updates to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): Meal Pattern Revisions Related to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The CACFP is a federal program serving more than 3 million children in child care, Head Start and after school programs across the country. USDA hopes to update the CACFP program to be consistent with the national school lunch program, WIC and other food assistance programs administered by the agency.

With more science and academic reports explaining the benefits of healthy diets for children, USDA has decided to review proposed meal patterns to include a variety of fruits and vegetables. The proposed rules would update the current meal standards to reflect nutritious guidelines and menu items for participants.

As care providers, educators and community leaders, we encourage you to get involved by sharing your comments regarding the proposed rule. The science is clear, healthy nutritious meals directly impact children’s ability to learn, cognitive development, physical development, emotions and social skills.

A brief overview of the proposed rule is as follow:

  • Fat free flavored milk only
  • Disallow onsite frying
  • Breakfast cereals be allowed to conform to the WIC requirements
  • Onsite water
  • Codified family style meal service
  • Technical Assistance for providers and CACFP compliance

Get involved today by sharing your comments, support or recommendations with USDA before the April 15th comment period deadline.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs like USDA’s Food Nutrition Service (FNS) Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans. Photo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.