State ag leaders want changes in school lunch guidelines

DES MOINES, IA – The nation's leading state agriculture officials are calling on the federal government to revise new school lunch and breakfast guidelines to better meet the individual and changing nutritional needs of children.

Meeting in Des Moines, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) approved a policy statement declaring the group's opposition to “restrictive dietary guidelines on meat protein and calories served through the National School Lunch and Breakfast program that do not take into consideration individual needs, especially those of physically active and growing students.”

Introduced by North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring during NASDA's annual meeting in Des Moines, the policy statement calls the new guidelines “well-intentioned, but falling short of providing a comprehensive policy for educating students in healthy living.”

Goehring pointed out that an eight-year-old needs 58 grams of protein per day, but the school lunch guidelines supply only 14 grams.

“Children need sufficient calories and protein for growth and mental alertness,” Goehring said. “A hungry child cannot focus and function at school and is at a disadvantage to those who have enough.”

He also said the guidelines unintentionally hurt disadvantaged children the most.

“More than 65 percent of the children eating school lunch and 84 percent in the breakfast program receive free or reduced-price meals,” he said. “Unlike children whose parents have the means to supply them with additional nutrition, especially protein, the children getting subsidized meals have no such resources and for many of them, school breakfasts and lunches may be the most nutritious meals they get that day.”

 The policy statement says that overly restrictive dietary guidelines in the school lunch program will not solve the serious, national problem of childhood obesity, and that a more comprehensive approach, including dietary education and increased physical activity, is needed to help students adopt a healthier lifestyle.

NASDA is comprised of the commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture of the 50 states and four U.S. territories.