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  • Writer's pictureAudrey Sanchez

Hot Take: the USDA doesn't care about children

With the announcement that loosened school nutrition standards are going to allow for increased servings of refined grains, flavored-milk, and higher sodium limits, the USDA has once again shown us that lobby money and politics are more important to them than our children's health.

There is not a single (credible) health or nutrition professional who would argue that serving kids more refined grains, sugar (hello chocolate milk), and sodium is a good idea. Unequivocally, public health data from the past thirty years has told us the exact opposite.

So, what possible incentive would the Department of Agriculture have to push more junk onto our children's lunch trays?

For one, the USDA is both responsible for creating nutritional guidelines and promoting commodities and products like corn, sugar, meat, and dairy - the very products dominating our unhealthy food system. This extreme conflict of interest rarely benefits public health and the nutrition "advice" propagated by the USDA is almost always influenced by food manufacturers. Take one look at a school lunch menu and you'll see that the politicians responsible for setting the nutrition standards aren't shy about taking money from companies that benefit from the so-called "common-sense flexibilities" of loosened nutrition regulations.

There is nothing common-sense about feeding children increased amounts of foods linked to disease. Common-sense would be more heavily regulating the food industry and it's dangerous practices and products - not giving them a green light to sell more junk food to children. If, as Sonny Perdue claims (without data, by the way), kids aren't eating the healthier foods on their plates, we have to ask ourselves,

"Is adding more unhealthy food to the menu the logical answer to that problem?"

It just doesn't make logical sense. It doesn't make common-sense. It doesn't make moral sense. It only makes corporate and political dollars and cents.

Here at Balanced, we're committed to holding corporations and political bodies accountable until they make our health a priority. We've started a petition to tell the USDA it's time they put our children's health first. Sign and share it here.

While we work on putting together a more formal campaign addressing these dangerous new standards, we encourage you to reach out directly to Sonny Perdue and his team at the USDA. Let them know you don't agree with these new standards and neither does basic nutrition science. You're welcome to use the text below or write your own message.

Email the USDA here:

Mr. Perdue and the USDA team,

I've recently learned of your intention to loosen the nutritional guidelines on school lunches. Allowing for increased amounts of refined grains, sugar, and sodium on school menus is dangerous to the health of our children and public health more broadly. With diet-related disease at an all time high - costing the US government upwards of 200 billion dollars a year - the need for improved nutrition standards is more urgent now than ever before. Instead, your team has decided to move in the exact opposite direction. A move I can only assume is the result of conflicting interests between the heavy promotion and propping-up of commodity goods and the health of our families. It seems in this case, business interests were more important to you than the lives of the Americans your department serves.



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