The food and beverage industry and public health and education groups have come to an agreement on national nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools.
The agreement is included in the newly introduced Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which reauthorizes child nutrition programs. The bill would give the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on school campuses throughout the school day, including vending machines, school stores and à la carte items.
The agreement calls for new standards to be consistent with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, an important point for food and beverage makers.
American Beverage Association president/CEO Susan K. Neely released a statement praising the proposed legislation's updating of school nutrition standards "in a manner that is supported by science and grounded in common sense." A Grocery Manufacturers of America statement also stressed the need for "science-based" standards.
Current regulations limiting the sale of foods sold in schools are narrow and have not been updated in almost 30 years.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, unveiled the Act on Tuesday and announced the standards agreement today, along with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Beverage Association, American Cancer Society Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, The Coca-Cola Company, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Mars Incorporated, National PTA, Nestle and PepsiCo. These companies and organizations worked with other food and beverage industry, public health, and education leaders to reach an agreement on national nutrition standards.
The bipartisan legislation aims to ensure that all children eligible for nutrition programs are actually participating, to improve the nutritional quality of meals to promote health and address childhood obesity, and to simplify program management and improve program integrity.
The legislation calls for the largest investment in federal child nutrition programs to date: $4.5 billion in new funding over 10 years. Schools would get an additional 6 cents per meal for improving nutrition quality.
The programs are fully paid for, according to Lincoln's announcement. However, the proposed legislation is already drawing fire from environmentalists because it would cut more than $2 billion from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's largest working lands conservation programs.
The federal child nutrition programs -- including the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Supplemental Program for Women Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Child and Adult Care Food Program -- help prevent hunger and promote healthy diets among children from birth until the end of secondary school.