During the 2017 Louisiana Legislative Session, we invite you to join us in advocating for healthy snacks in public schools. Students consume up to half of their daily calories while at school, making it very important they have healthy food and beverage options available.
Our students already receive nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school. Offering nutritious snacks would be the perfect complement!
Here’s some history. The USDA last updated snack and a la carte food standards in 1979. Because nutrition science and school environments have changed ― and childhood obesity rates have increased since then ― Congress directed USDA to update the standards as part of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The USDA finalized its standards in July 2016 and required schools to meet the standard by September 27, 2016.
The USDA recognized the problem for what it is ― an epidemic. If the nation fails to address the current obesity epidemic, the current generation of young people may be the first in American history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents. It is no surprise 7 out of 10 states with the highest rates of childhood obesity are in the South. With Louisiana ranked #4, forty percent of our children are overweight or obese.
But, did you know that Louisiana adopted nutritional standards for competitive foods in 2005 before new federal guidelines were released?! In fact, we are stronger in a few areas than the federal policy, but we still have a lot of work to do.
Ethical Obligation? Many critics of this legislation cite a decline in school revenue attributed to healthy snack policies. Recent studies have found higher participation in the federal reimbursable breakfast and lunch programs after schools implement Smart Snacks policies. Higher participation equates to more revenue kept in schools.
But what’s even more important is higher participation among students in free or reduced lunch programs. For these students, the school meal may be the only meal the family can afford to feed the child the entire day. In the 2013-14 school year, a whopping 66.8% of Louisiana’s students were eligible for free or reduced lunch. Let that sink in ― that’s 463,617 students that potentially need a nutritional meal because they might not have been able to get one at home.
The mission of schools is broader than simply teaching academic skills. Schools have long accepted responsibility for supporting the health of their students, for example, by requiring immunizations, providing health screenings and by offering meal programs that support their students’ nutritional health.
We hope you'll join us this legislative session to speak up for #HealthyTrayLA!