Report Highlights Ways to Improve National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–Oct. 20, 2009 – The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies today released the report of its expert panel, commissioned by USDA, to develop recommendations on improvements to the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to align them with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The panel made eight recommendations addressing new nutrient targets and meal requirements for the implementation and monitoring of the new requirements, and evaluation and research activities to guide future program improvement.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture takes its responsibilities for improving the health and nutrition of kids across the country very seriously and the report released today by the Institute of Medicine provides important information to help the USDA and the Obama Administration meet this important goal,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Experts at USDA are engaged in a thorough review of the IOM recommendations and will develop a proposed rule to determine the best ways to improve the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program based on IOM’s final report. Stakeholders and the public will have ample opportunity to comment on USDA’s proposed rule.”

Vilsack also mentioned that USDA intends to continue to provide assistance to schools to help them increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free dairy products in the lunch and breakfast menus. USDA’s Team Nutrition initiative and the HealthierUS School Challenge will continue to help schools move in the direction of these recommendations. In the months ahead, USDA leadership will work with Congress to support its effort to reauthorize these programs.

“We are grateful to the IOM expert committee for the hours of research, discussion, and deliberation that made these recommendations possible, and to the professional organizations, child nutrition advocates, and others who provided their experience and knowledge to support the IOM effort,” said Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services. “We look forward to working with all those who care about children’s nutrition and health to make these science-based recommendations a basis for positive change in tens of thousands of schools across America. Together, we can build on the success of today’s school meals programs towards an even healthier tomorrow for our children.”

The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act requires that meals served under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program reflect the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). In February 2008, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service contracted with the IOM seeking recommendations to update the meal patterns and nutrition standards for school lunches and breakfasts consistent with the 2005 DGAs.