Common Sense Food in Schools

...and "Potable" Water Too!

FF The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) in the U.S., published its recommendations for school food yesterday. The report, "Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way toward Healthier Youth", addresses the increasing obesity in children that causes metabolic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease and sets kids up for future health problems.

The IOM report, commissioned by Congress, looks at the trend towards increasing obesity in kids, and links it to the growing availability of so called "competitive foods", available in school snack bars, vending machines and cafeterias. The Institute reviewed the results of past federal government sponsored dietary programs and now recommends changing the method of assessing the nutritional value of food.

Rather than rating foods according to the nutritional value of each food relative to the overall diet, the IOM recommends evaluating individual food items according to each items nutritional value. The current dietary recommendations assume that while a person may not get each nutrient at every meal, over time, they'll balance their diet. However, the IOM notes, that was a standard devised 30 years ago. These days the nutritional challenge isn't whether people are getting enough calories. Obesity coexists with malnutrition for many people who get all their calories from soda and junk food. Individuals make consistently bad nutritional choices over time.

To address this and to set up healthy habits in children, the new standards suggest allowing only foods that have substantive nutritional value in schools. The IOM recommends that federally-reimbursable foods NOT be replaced by "competitive foods" supplied by industry. Snacks should be limited to "nutritious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and non/low-fat dairy products".

The authors divided food into Tier I and Tier II categories, according to fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, sugar and sodium contents. A Tier I food, for instance, should contain no more than 35% of its calories from fat and sugar (unless it's yogurt), and should have 200mg or less of sodium. Beverages should have limited artificial sweeteners, caffeine, fortification, and caloric content, since drinks with these ingredients supplant more nutritious choices. Tier I choices would be available at all times, at all grade levels, Tier II choices would be more limited. Other food products would not be allowed.

The report recommends that "potable water" be available free to students throughout the day.

Some food and beverage companies reacted to the news as you would expect, claiming that lack of exercise, not junk food, dragged kids down. The industries' would prefer the continuation of their "voluntary standards", with no oversight as to how those are implemented. The Center for Science in The Public Interest (CSPI) hailed the revision of the 30 year old "disco-era" nutritional standards.


Related articles at Acronym Required:
On another IOM report: "Why So Fat? It's Systemwide",
"Childhood Obesity, The American Way"
"Survey Says: Pop's Out Drugs are In"
"News of Lightweight Study: 'Obese Should Walk Slowly'"
"Coke: Teaching the World to Sing"


PHOTO: Courtesy of Roland Alton-Scheidl. Creative Commons License:

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