Nutritionists call for national school food standards

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

More than 600 school nutrition professionals will next week call on
Congress to adopt national food and beverage standards for
'competitive foods' sold in schools.

The move is an attempt to address the current "patchwork"​ of guidelines throughout the US on foods sold outside the school cafeteria, according to the School Nutrition Association (SNA). The non-profit group yesterday announced that its members, including nutritionists, state child nutrition directors and foodservice industry representatives, will address these issues during a meeting with Members of Congress at the 35th​ Annual Legislative Action Conference in Washington DC on Tuesday. "The School Nutrition Association is advocating for national school food and beverage standards to apply to items made available on the school campus outside of the balanced meals served through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program,"​ said the group in a statement. "Under current law, meals provided through the school lunch and breakfast programs must follow nutrition standards in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Currently, there are no national nutrition standards for 'competitive foods', or foods sold or made available outside of the school cafeteria, resulting in a patchwork of guidelines throughout the country,"​ it added. According to the association, consistent standards are needed to promote wellness and send a clear and positive message to schoolchildren nationwide. ​Activities of next week's conference will also include panel discussions addressing SNA's 2007 legislative priorities, implications of local and state nutrition standards and an update on child nutrition activities from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Speakers at the event will include Senator Lisa Murkowski, who last year sponsored the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act of 2006, a bill introduced in Congress calling on the USDA to update its nutritional standards for foods sold on school campus. The proposed legislation was designed to address the same issue that will next week again be approached: the loophole in the terms of the current Child Nutrition Act that means that the USDA sets standards for foods sold in school lunch rooms, but is prevented from regulating foods sold elsewhere on school grounds. The bill, introduced by lead sponsor Senator Tom Harkin, aimed to revise the current definition of 'foods of minimal nutritional value' that are permitted for sale in schools. The current definition, which dates back to 1979 and which focuses on whether a food has at least minimal amounts of one of eight nutrients, has been accused of being obsolete. The new definition is designed to conform to current nutrition science.

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