NUTRITION STANDARDS FOR FOODS IN SCHOOLS
Institute of Medicine
The National Academies
Member, Committee on Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools
Food and Nutrition Board
Institute of Medicine
The National Academies
Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
March 12, 2009
Good afternoon, Madame Chair and members of the Committee. My name is Lynn Parker. I am currently a scholar at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Prior to joining the Institute of Medicine, I served as member of the Committee on Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools of the Institute of Medicine which produced the report, Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth. Established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine provides independent, objective, evidence-based advice to policymakers, health professionals, the private sector, and the public.
In FY 2005, in the wake of the rising rate of obesity among American youth and the increasing availability of high-calorie, low-nutrient products on school grounds, Congress directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake a study with the Institute of Medicine to review evidence and make recommendations about appropriate nutrition standards for the availability, sale, content, and consumption of foods and beverages at school, with attention to those offered outside the federally reimbursable meals and snacks. The need for such standards is simple. While federally-reimbursed school meals must meet nutrition guidelines, “competitive” foods and beverages are not necessarily required to conform to any nutritional or health standards except for the very limited USDA requirements that no foods of minimal nutritional value (a food or beverage that has less than 5 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowances for eight specified nutrients) are allowed during meal periods in the vicinity of the cafeteria.
To begin the process of developing recommendations, the committee established a set of Guiding Principles that would result in the creation of a healthful eating environment for children in U.S. schools and to guide deliberations and development of the standards. The Guiding Principles are listed in the April 2007 Report Brief submitted with my written testimony. Examples of these include: (a) Schools contribute to current and life-long health and dietary patterns and are uniquely positioned to model and reinforce healthful eating behaviors in partnership with parents, teachers, and the broader community; and (b) All foods and beverages offered on the school campus will contribute to an overall healthful eating environment. The committee was also guided by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and reviewed pertinent scientific evidence.
Key Premises and Hierarchy of Foods
Drawing on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and scientific data describing the current dietary intake of school-age children, the committee identified fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy as foods and beverages to be encouraged if competitive foods and beverages are allowed in the individual school. In regard to the issue of calories and portion size, the committee considered the fact that once a healthful breakfast and lunch are consumed, for many children there are relatively few calories remaining for consumption as snacks in a healthful diet. The committee also considered efficiency and simplicity when it recommended one maximum calorie portion size for the school setting. The committee organized competitive foods and beverages in schools into two Tiers, according to the extent of their consistency with the Guiding Principles. Tier 1 foods and beverages provide at least one serving of “foods to be encouraged” as defined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and include fresh or minimally processed foods such as apples, carrot sticks, raisins, some multigrain tortilla chips, granola bars, and nonfat yogurt with limited added sugars. Tier 1 beverages are 1 percent or skim milk, 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices and plain water. These were recommended for all schools during the school day. Tier 2 foods and beverages are different from Tier 1 in that they do not necessarily offer a full serving of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or low-fat or nonfat dairy, but they do meet certain nutritional criteria. These were suggested as an option after school in high schools.
Together, the Guiding Principles and the two Tiers form the basis of the committee’s recommended nutrition standards for competitive foods and beverages in schools. The standards have two objectives: to encourage consumption of healthful foods and beverages and to limit consumption of dietary components (such as fat, saturated fat, sodium, or added sugars) that either fall outside the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines or are not optimal for the diets or health of school-age children. The standards are intended to ensure that competitive snacks, foods, and beverages complement the school lunch and breakfast meals, and that they contribute to the development of lifelong healthy eating patterns.
The committee also recommended that the standards apply to competitive foods sold or offered over the entire school day and throughout the school campus. Finally, the committee made recommendations for actions to implement the nutrition standards by schools; local, state, and federal governments; industry; and other stakeholders. These recommendations are discussed in chapter 6 of the report and outlined in the Report Brief.
In conclusion, the traditional school nutrition programs are intended to provide access to healthful foods. These programs are the main source of nutrition provided at school. However, if a school decides to offer competitive snacks, foods, and beverages to students, these offerings should encourage greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. The recommendations from the committee ensure that competitive foods and beverages are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and encourage children and adolescents to develop life-long healthful eating patterns.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I would be happy to address any questions the Committee might have.
Lynn Parker is a Scholar at the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine in Washington, DC. She is the study director for IOM’s standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention, the Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention Actions for Local Governments, and the Committee on An Evidence Framework for Obesity Decision-Making. Before she joined IOM, she was a nutritionist at the Food Research and Action Center, a national organization working to end hunger and undernutrition in the United States, most recently as Director of Child Nutrition Programs and Nutrition Policy, where she led FRAC’s work on child nutrition programs, research, and nutrition policy. She also played a leadership role in the development of FRAC’s Community Childhood Hunger Identification Project (CCHIP), a ground-breaking survey of childhood hunger in the United States and led FRAC’s initiative on understanding and responding to the paradox of hunger, poverty, and obesity. She served on the Technical Advisory Group to America’s Second Harvest 2001 and 2005 National Hunger Surveys; on the National Nutrition Monitoring Advisory Council (appointed by then Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell); and as President of the Society for Nutrition Education. She also served for two terms as a member of the Food and Nutrition Board of the IOM and was a member of its Committee on Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools. She is the 2006 recipient of the Mary C. Egan Award from the Food and Nutrition Section of the American Public Health Association and the 2007 recipient of the Helen Denning Ullrich Award for Excellence in Nutrition Education from the Society for Nutrition Education. Before joining FRAC, she worked with New York State’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program at Cornell University. Lynn received her B.A. in anthropology at the University of Michigan and an M.S. in human nutrition from Cornell University.