Dear Secretary Perdue:
I oppose your proposal to weaken school nutrition. Most schools are making great progress toward serving healthier meals with less salt; more whole grains; fruits, and vegetables; and no artificial trans fat, and removing soda and junk food. We should build on that progress, not stop it.
The three-year delay of the second sodium reduction targets for school meals would lock in unsafe levels of sodium. Many schools and food service companies are working toward or already providing healthy and appealing meals with less salt. Any remaining challenges can be addressed through technical assistance.
Unfortunately, nine out of ten children consume too much salt, increasing their risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Delaying the second phase of sodium reduction from the originally scheduled School Year 2017-2018 to School Year 2021-2022 puts children's health at risk and would result in kids consuming an extra 84 teaspoons of salt (over the course of the three-year delay).
There is also no need to continue the whole-grain waivers. 85 percent of schools are providing kids with appealing and tasty whole-grain options. If all schools in Alabama, Idaho, and Montana can serve whole grains to their students, schools in the rest of the states should be able to as well.
Eating more whole grains is associated with reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, provides more nutrients, and are a healthful source of fiber. Kids on average consume too few whole grains and too many refined grains.
Rather than weakening school nutrition, I urge the administration to support school efforts to continue the progress to improve school food.