Submit comments to protect school meals to improve student health

We are disappointed that the United States Department of Agriculture has proposed a new rule that, if enacted, would roll back school nutrition standards established in 2012. The proposed rule would allow schools to serve fewer fruits and whole grains, reduce the variety of vegetables and offer less healthy entrees. The USDA’s own research has shown that the 2012 nutrition standards improved student diets and increased student participation in school meals.

Common sense tells us that healthy children do better in school. After all, kids are no different from the rest of us. Have you ever been “hangry” or struggled to think clearly at work when sick? This common sense wisdom is backed up by a growing body of evidence. For example, researchers have found that healthier school meals are a cost effective way to improve student performance and reduce childhood obesity.

According to the Food Research Action Center, the proposed new rule would:

  • Reduce the amount of fruit served in breakfast after the bell programs
  • Reduce the amount of red and orange vegetables, such as carrots, tomatoes and squash, served at lunch
  • Diminish the nutritional value of other foods sold in the cafeteria
  • Eliminate the guarantee that all children will receive a balanced and healthy school meal regardless of school setting

The proposed rule is still under consideration. The USDA must complete a public comment period, which has been extended to April 22, 2020. USDA officials then have 90 days to review and respond to each comment that was submitted. After that, the USDA may choose to withdraw, revise or enact the new rule.

What you can do

Any member of the public may submit a comment as an individual or on behalf of an organization. It’s as simple as writing a letter and submitting it online by April 22, 2020. We’ve made it easy to write and submit a public comment, and to share information with your  network. Use this sample letter and school meals brief to get started.

To write a persuasive and effective public comment, follow these tips:

  • Be clear. Introduce yourself, state your position and ask the USDA to withdraw the proposed rule.
  • Be unique. The USDA must review every unique comment, so use your own words to describe why the proposed rule is harmful. Share local data to illustrate the harm that will be done by the proposed rule. Your personal story is a simple, persuasive way to talk about why school nutrition standards matter.
  • Be timely. Remember, your comment must be submitted by the April 22, 2020 deadline!

Lastly, here are some sample posts for social media:

  • French fries aren’t vegetables. Speak up to protect school nutrition standards. #ProtectSchoolMeals #KCVoices 
  • Healthy school meals help students learn. Don’t change what’s working! Speak up to protect school nutrition standards. #ProtectSchoolMeals #KCVoices
  • More salt, fewer whole grains is bad news for school food. Defend school nutrition standards by commenting today. #ProtectSchoolMeals #KCVoices
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