Washington / DC. (mr) Some days ago, USDA published a proposed rule that could reduce the amount of vegetables and fruits eaten by our children and increase the consumption of saturated fats and unhealthy foods in the U.S. school lunch program. Addressing childhood obesity is a national security imperative, and school meals should promote a balanced, nutritious and healthful diet. In response, Mission: Readiness issued the following statement:
The retired admirals and generals of Mission: Readiness have sounded the alarm for the past decade that obesity is one of the leading reasons why 71 percent of young Americans are ineligible for military service, with nearly one in three too overweight to serve.
We agree that if kids are not eating what they are being served, they are not benefitting and food is being wasted. However, we are greatly concerned that some of the proposed vegetable substitutions do not address the fact that over 90 percent of our children still do not consume enough vegetables.
Further, in a country where almost two-thirds of our kids do not eat the recommended amount of fruits, reducing the fruit serving size in school breakfasts is moving us in the wrong direction. To meet the recommended daily values for vegetables and fruits, local schools should be given the flexibility to innovate in serving fruits and vegetables in different ways to appeal to kids and get to the heart of food waste.
Another concern is the a la carte proposed change that doubles the availability of entrees such as hamburgers and pizza for purchase in a school week. Allowing kids to regularly buy unhealthy foods will not help address the obesity problem in this country. When less healthful items are sold individually, students consume more harmful ingredients like excess sodium and saturated fat without getting the positive nutrients from the rest of the items that balance the meal.
We applaud the USDA’s goal of working to address food waste and bringing menu decision-making closer to our nation’s kids, but we call on them to stay the course on school nutrition standards by continuing to serve vegetables, fruits and balanced meals.