USDA, White House Launch School Wellness Standards

<p>The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama today announced proposed school wellness standards and the debut of nationwide free breakfast and lunch programs for schools that serve low-income communities.</p>

WASHINGTONThe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama today announced proposed school wellness standards and the debut of nationwide free breakfast and lunch programs for schools that serve low-income communities.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that the USDA set guidelines for what needed to be included in local school wellness policies in areas, such as setting goals for nutrition education and physical activity, informing parents about content of the policy and implementation, and periodically assessing progress and sharing updates as appropriate. As part of local school wellness policies, the proposed guidelines would ensure that foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the recently-released Smart Snacks in School standards. USDA also launched a new School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resources" website that includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a dedicated page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.

The idea here is simpleour classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren't bombarded with ads for junk food," First Lady Michelle Obama said. Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn't be undone by unhealthy messages at school."

The proposed guidelines come after the White House Summit on Food Marketing to Children last fall where the First Lady called on the country to ensure childrens health was not undermined by marketing of unhealthy food.

"The food marketing and local wellness standards proposed today support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place at home and in schools across the country. The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America's young people," Vilsack said.

Mrs. Obama and Secretary Vilsack also announced that beginning July 1, 2014, more than 22,000 schools across the country that serve primarily low-income students will be eligible to serve healthy free lunches and breakfasts to all students. This program, which will help as many as 9 million U.S. children eat healthy meals at school, is an expansion of a successful program that was piloted in 11 states with the goal of ensuring children who are in need of nutritious meals are receiving them.

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