SNA Responds to Institute of Medicine Recommended Voluntary Nutrition Standards
April 25, 2007 -- This morning the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee on Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools recommended voluntary nutrition standards for ‘competitive’ foods and drinks sold in schools. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) applauds the Committee’s 15 members for developing comprehensive school nutrition standards for food choices available outside of the healthy school meals that follow federal nutrition guidelines, and are served through the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.
The multidisciplinary IOM committee of academics, scientists and one school nutrition director, was convened in 2005 to review and make recommendations regarding appropriate nutrition standards for the availability, sale, content, and consumption of foods and beverages at school, with attention given to foods and beverages offered in competition with federally-reimbursable meals and snacks.
While supportive of the efforts of the IOM Committee’s recommendations, SNA is concerned about implementation of the standards and the lack of funding and enforcement of voluntary nutrition standards. Implementation of the standards and local wellness policies will require an understanding that nutrition for students is not only the job of school nutrition professionals; it is also the job of other members of the education community and parents. SNA remains an ardent supporter of adequately funded, enforceable, uniform, national school nutrition standards for foods and beverages available outside of the school meal programs, as well as for uniform, federal nutrition standards for school meals. The Association continues to call on Congress to give the United States Department of Agriculture the authority to develop national nutrition standards for all competitive foods in schools. A national, science-based, mandated school nutrition standard that is enforceable at the local level and adequately funded is needed. For this reason SNA continues to call for the passage in Congress of the Child Nutrition Promotion and School Lunch Protection Act, S. 771 and HR 1363.
"The IOM report is a very important contribution to the fight against childhood overweight, but any voluntary standard will only work if the Congress backs it up with an enforceable national nutrition standard through legislation," said Janey Thornton, MA, SNS president of the School Nutrition Association.
While there is currently no uniform national nutrition standard for competitive foods that is required, there are 30 different school nutrition standards at the state level. Additionally, the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required all 14,383 school districts that participate in the NSLP to adopt individualized local school wellness policies by July 2006. The SNA 2006 Back to School trend Survey found that 63.5% of school districts had made significant efforts to offer healthy choices in a la carte lines. There are also other national voluntary school nutrition standards recommended by a variety of organizations. While all of these efforts are working to improve the nutrition environment in schools, the voluntary nature of many standards and the differences among standards regarding specific details are creating a very difficult environment for school nutrition operators and the school nutrition industry to navigate in order to provide quality, affordable foods and beverages that meet the various standards for schools and students throughout the nation.
SNA is committed to consistent nutrition standards in the school to send a consistent nutrition education message to students. Schools need to serve as role models for students, and school nutrition professionals strive to lead by example with the foods we sell and make available for students. As school nutrition program operators it is challenging to obtain products that meet the varying state and local guidelines. SNA is concerned that food and beverage products may not be available for some time which meet the new, voluntary IOM standards.
The School Nutrition Association and its 55,000 members have long focused on promoting healthy childhood weight through planning, preparing and serving nutritious meals in schools, providing nutrition education in the classroom and cafeteria and most recently through the development and implementation of local school wellness policies. During the past year the Association has also promoted staff wellness in school nutrition programs through the Eat Smart, Get Moving program that encourages school nutrition staff to serve as healthy lifestyle role models.