We are a statewide policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of low income Californians by increasing their access to nutritious, affordable food.

USDA Secretary Perdue Acts to Weaken School Meal Standards

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5.01.2017 Today’s actions by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to weaken the school meal nutrition standards are a step in the wrong direction when it comes to ensuring the health and academic success of California students. Secretary Perdue announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be rolling back science-based school meal nutrition standards related to sodium, whole grain and flavored milk. Read Secretary Perdue’s Proclamation. link

Nutrition standards are vital to the health and academic success of the millions of California children who eat school lunch and school breakfast each day. While all students can benefit from healthy school meals, they are particularly important to low-income students and those that struggle with hunger. In California, 2.3 million children and youth receive free or reduced-price lunches. Many of these students rely on school meals for adequate nutrition. Nutritious school meals improve nutrition shortfalls and help address the nation’s obesity problem.

The press release from USDA justifies the weakening of nutrition standards by stating concerns over food waste, program participation, and fiscal viability. These concerns are at odds with a previously released USDA fact sheet which highlights many successes of implementing the improved school meal nutrition standards as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010. Some of the positive results of the school meals provision included:

  • Kids eating more fruits and vegetables as a result of the improved HHFKA nutrition standards.
  • Increased school lunch revenue. Nationwide, schools saw a net increase in revenue from school lunches of approximately $200 million.
  • Healthy food standards did not increase food waste.  While plate waste is always concerning, the amount of waste was not increased since before the meal pattern changed.
  • Participation increased substantially in many areas of the country. California's largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, saw a 14% increase in participation under the HHFKA meal standards.
  • Virtually all schools continued to offer the federal school meal programs. Despite media reports of schools dropping out of as a result of HHFKA, 99.85% of schools continued to participate in the programs.

California has championed local control as a means of addressing equity and closing the achievement gap. In order to meet these goals, all students should have access to healthy school meals no matter what school they attend.

Questions? Contact Anna Colby at 213.482.8200 ext. 204.