The Obesity Society
Obesity Action Coalition
American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery
The Obesity Society, Obesity Action Coalition, and American Society for metabolic and Bariatric Surgery support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) effort to implement regulations to improve the quality and healthfulness of school meals, including competitive foods. The impact of the new policy could be substantial, given that approximately 50 million children participate in these federal programs, most of whom are low income and may be at higher risk of developing obesity. We recognize that the consumption of healthy foods at school cannot by itself cure the epidemic of obesity among our country’s children, but we believe that these changes are one important step in that direction. The policy makes appropriate exemptions for a limited number of school fundraisers.
We support thoughtful, evidence-based, common sense approaches to improving public health, provided these are also evaluated for effectiveness. Like other policies, such as calorie labeling, we recognize that these policies must be evaluated. However, we believe that as public health measures, they have an extremely small likelihood of causing harm, and a good chance of making positive change. We respectfully suggest that it is possible to evaluate the effects of these policy changes on the overall quality of children’s diets and health, and that efforts should be made to conduct such evaluations.
While this is a very detailed set of regulations and we would be happy to provide in-depth analysis at the request of the USDA, we note two initial concerns and suggest the following. First, in the section “Food Requirements”, it should be clear that the document is referring to one serving of food. Second, we respectfully suggest that the policy should include foods sold during “after school hours.” Otherwise, we believe it may be easy to get around the policy by selling unhealthy foods on a regular, even daily basis, at various school events (e.g., sporting events) which start only 30 minutes after the end of the school day.
Again, we are encouraged by USDA’s attention to improving our children’s health and for these strong standards.