Nutrition Standards For Foods In Schools: Leading The Way Toward Healthier Youth
Virginia A. Stallings, M.D.
Jean A. Cortner Endowed Chair in Pediatric Gastroenterology, and Director of the Nutrition Center, Director of Faculty Development at the Joseph Stokes Jr. Research Institute at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania; School of Medicine
Chair, Committee on Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools
Institute of Medicine
Good morning and welcome. I extend my sincere thanks to the committee members and the IOM’s Food and Nutrition Board staff who worked on this report. It is a pleasure to be here to talk with you about the report Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth. The purpose of this study was to develop evidence-based nutrition standards for snacks, foods, beverages, and a la carte items offered outside the National School Breakfast and Lunch program meals. The need for such standards is simple: While federal school meals meet some nutrition guidelines, these other foods and drinks are not necessarily required to conform to any nutritional or health standards. They tend to be high in calories and lack important nutrients. These foods don’t have to be unhealthy foods. There are many examples of healthy options that can support the development of lifelong healthy dietary habits.
To start our deliberations, the committee established guiding principles that served as the framework for the development of standards for foods and drinks available on campus outside of the school lunch and breakfast programs. These principles include our recognition that dietary intake and the maintenance of a healthy weight affects the current and lifelong health and well-being of children. Schools are uniquely positioned to model and reinforce healthy eating behaviors in partnership with parents, teachers, and the broader community. Because the foods and beverages available on the school campus make up a significant proportion of students’ daily caloric intake, they should contribute to a healthful diet. And the school campus should be an overall healthful eating environment.
The committee’s recommendations are intended to ensure that foods and beverages on the school campus are consistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that they complement the school lunch and breakfast program meals, and that they contribute to the development of healthy dietary patterns. We organized these school environment foods and beverages into two tiers of products based on our guiding principles. Tier 1 foods and beverages provide at least one serving of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or nonfat or low-fat dairy. Tier 1 items include fresh or minimally processed foods such as apples, carrot sticks, raisins, low-fat or nonfat milk, and certain multigrain tortilla chips, granola bars, and nonfat yogurt. Tier 2 foods and beverages do not necessarily provide a serving of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or low-fat or nonfat dairy, but they meet the food composition recommendations for calories, fat, sugar, and sodium. Tier 2 may include processed foods such as certain baked potato chips, whole wheat crackers, animal cracker cookies, graham crackers, and pretzels.
Together, the Guiding Principles and the two tiers form the basis of the committee’s proposed nutrition standards for foods and beverages available on campus outside the school lunch and breakfast programs. These standards have two main objectives: to encourage consumption of healthful foods that are lacking in the diets of school-age children and to limit consumption of food components that either fall outside the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines or are not optimal for the diets or health of school-age children.
The committee’s recommended standards for Tier 1 and Tier 2 foods and beverages are encapsulated on page 3 of the summary handout you received this morning or that you can find via a link to the report from the National Academies home page. I will not mention every criterion here. But as you can see, we proposed limits on the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, sodium, and caffeine.
Competitive foods and beverages should contain no more than trace amounts of naturally occurring caffeine-related substances because of the potential for negative effects on students’ learning, including shakiness, headaches, and other symptoms of dependency and withdrawal.
Plain water should be readily available in all schools throughout the day at no cost to students. Diet sodas and other beverages containing nonnutritive sweeteners should be limited to high schools and be available only after school hours. We did not propose a standard for nonnutritive sweeteners in foods because of the uncertainties and limitations in evidence, especially concerning their effectiveness for weight control and long-term safety when consumption begins in childhood.
If a school chooses to allow foods and beverages to be available in addition to the lunch and breakfast programs, Tier 1 foods and drinks are designed for all grade levels during the school day. Tier 2 items are designed only for high school students after the end of the school day. High schools should minimize marketing of Tier 2 snacks, foods, and beverages by locating the distribution site in low-traffic areas and ensuring that the exteriors of vending machines do not depict commercial products or logos or suggest that consumption of the items conveys health or social benefits. Sports drinks should not be available in the school setting except when provided by the school for students participating in sport programs involving vigorous activity lasting more than one hour, and at the discretion of the coach. Foods and beverages should not be used as rewards for academic performance or as a tool to maintain discipline.
Schools should limit snacks for elementary and middle school students involved in after-school activities to Tier 1 items. Snacks from both tiers are allowed after school for high school students. If foods and beverages are allowed for on-campus fundraising activities, only Tier 1 foods and beverages should be permitted in schools during the school day. Tier 1 and 2 foods and beverages can be used for fundraising purposes in high schools after school. All schools should encourage that the foods and beverages available for evening and community activities on campus that include adults and students come from items within the Tier 1 and Tier 2 criteria.
The committee also made recommendations for actions to implement and monitor these nutrition standards and these are discussed in chapter 6 of the report. In conclusion, based upon the evidences available, the committee has developed standards designed to improve the health and well being of students- both as our school children and as the adults they will become. Once these standards are implemented, schools will directly enhance the dietary intake and health of school children in America.
This concludes my opening statement. My colleagues and I welcome your questions. Those of you listening to the live webcast can submit questions via email using a link to the National Academies home page. We ask those of you in the room to step to the microphone, and identify yourself by name and organization when asking a question. Thank you.
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