Everyone should have access to healthy food, especially children who are growing and developing habits and relationships with food but often do not have many choices in what food is offered at school.
Unfortunately, the industrialized and broken food system, backed by Big Food and Soda, has infiltrated our schools and is jeopardizing our children’s health and wellbeing. The result is ultra-processed and unhealthy food in schools, irresponsible and targeted marketing of unhealthy products to kids, and meddling in policymaking aimed to curtail the harms these products cause to the public.
For example, corporations like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have tried to block state bills that prevent their unhealthy products from being sold in schools. And they’ve been notorious in securing “pouring rights” with schools, which earn them the exclusive privilege to sell their products in vending machines and at events on school premises. All the while mega food service contractors such as Aramark, Compass Group, and Sodexo, have monopolized the hold on food contracts with schools in the past few decades. This growing corporate grip on what our kids eat at school is resulting in skyrocketing childhood obesity rates and declining academic performance.
So it is urgent that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) take action to improve the nutrition of food served in our public schools. The plan includes limiting added sugars, reducing weekly sodium limits, and offering more whole-grain options, among other measures.
That’s why we’re joining our allies and asking USDA to take a concrete step toward safeguarding our children’s health from ultra-processed foods and offering healthier meals in school. It is about time we have wholesome food in our schools that is nourishing our children and not serving the food industry’s bottom-line.
While this is a relatively modest step towards ensuring children are fed healthful meals at school, it is a meaningful step. Over the past three decades, the childhood obesity rate in the U.S. has tripled, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. We cannot afford to wait on change any longer, and these changes will make a real impact in the lives of children.