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On December 13, 2010 President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 20101. In the US 30 million children receive meals through the school lunch program, 17 million live in food insecure households and one in three children are overweight or obese. This law is designed to improve nutrition in schools and focuses on reducing childhood obesity. It will increase access to food for more children that are living in low income households, while improving the integrity and monitoring of the school food program.

The new law provides the USDA with the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools, increase reimbursement money to schools that meet the updated nutritional standards, ensure more local foods will be used, expand access to drinking water during meals, set basic wellness policies (food education and physical exercise), promote nutrition and wellness in children care settings and expand support for breast feeding.

More students will be eligible for enrolment in the new program, which will use Medicaid data to certify children who meet income requirements. In addition census data will be used to identify schools in low income communities, where students will be given universal meal access. In order to improve program monitoring, school districts will be audited every three years for compliance to nutritional standards. Furthermore, the program will improve handling of recalls and require school programs to adopt Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) procedures and other food safety requirements. In order to implement these safety requirements technical assistance and training will be provided to schools.

Similar Programs Elsewhere Other countries are already running programs which are similar to what will be developed in the US. For example the United Kingdom established a National Healthy Schools program in 1999. The UK program focuses on four major themes: Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education; Healthy Eating; Physical Activity and Emotional Health and Well-Being. Schools meet the National Healthy Schools status by meeting the requirements for the four major themes.

India also provides a hot lunch program to 140 million children in government-run schools. As a result of the scheme school enrolment has improved, attendance has increased and nutrition levels of children have risen3.

Tools to Develop Programs

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a tool for development of Food and Nutrition Policy for Schools. This tool provided a step by step approach for the development of a school program to reduce obesity, reduce dental caries, increase physical activity, improve eating habits and promote good nutrition.

These programs are necessary because, as the Global Health Council points out, there are 182 million children under the age of five that suffer from stunted growth which “leaves a legacy of delayed development, impaired cognitive function, poor school performance, and overall reduced productivity”.

This is why programs such as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 and the National Healthy Schools program are essential in order to provide proper nutrition and nutritional guidance to children in order for them to develop into functioning members of our society.

  1. S. 3307 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
  2. Healthy Schools - The Four Themes.
  3. India Offers Students Free Midday Meals as Incentive to Stay in School.
  4. WHO Food and Nutrition Policy for Schools – Copenhagen 2006 (PDF 559 KB).

Contact:

James Cook
Food Safety Technologist

SGS North America Inc.
t: +1 973 461 1493
Website: www.sgs.com/foodsafety

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With 64,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,250 offices and laboratories around the world.