NPI policy brief calls for an added sugars standard for school meals

Apr 26, 2021

Congress is working on Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which has been delayed since 2015. The previous reauthorization resulted in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). Despite the delay, a recent study shows that school meals are the single overall healthiest source of eating in the U.S., suggesting children's nutrition has fared well under HHFKA. Limitation of added sugars in school meals was not incorporated into the HHFKA, due in large part to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) anticipating that maximum calorie levels in school meals would effectively curb amounts of added sugars. However, this was not effective as a recent study showed that most schools exceeded the guideline of 10% of total calories daily limit for added sugars at both breakfast (92%) and lunch (69%). In their latest policy brief, Nutrition Policy Institute researchers in collaboration with Stanford Medicine Department of Pediatrics, Cultiva La Salud, and the Dolores Huerta Foundation, share findings from a research project involving San Joaquin Valley parents of children who receive school meals during COVID-19 related school closures. Parent experiences of school meals were collected from focus groups and PhotoVoice documentation of one week's worth of school meals. Parents expressed concern about the freshness, nutritional quality, and amount of added sugars in the school meals. The brief, entitled ‘School Meals: Kids are Sweeter with Less Sugar' presents parent photographs together with parent quotes and a brief summary of the background. It concludes with the policy recommendation that Congress, through Child Nutrition Reauthorization, direct USDA to implement a standard for added sugars that aligns with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The brief is available online.

By Danielle L. Lee
Author - Director of Communications & Research Engagement