Tuesday, July 15, 2008

USDA Child Nutrition and WIC 2009 reuthorization

USDA held a listening session in Austin, Texas at the beautiful LBJ Wildflower Center. I was speaker #28.

Some highlights:
A lady pointed out the use of the euphemism--food insecure--as opposed to hunger or hungry. This is a point I made when they made the change. It acts to mask the issue of hunger in the United States and makes the society less aware of the widespread problem.

A man from Borden milk tauted their efforts to switch their milk cartons to plastic instead of paperboard. Well that's environmentally friendly! Apparently customers are buying less of the plastic jugs due to high prices. Duh...plastic is made out of petroleum. He also asked USDA to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in their flavored milks so they can stay below the sugar standards. Yuck! He complained about the decrease in milk consumption as kids get older. Yeah...I think you should stop drinking milk around, uh 2...2 1/2. Mothers milk that is; Cows milk is for cows.

My presentation was simple. I talked about the importance of strengthening the WIC Farmers Market voucher program.

On Childhood Nutrition I spoke of competitive foods and how they should be taken out of the schools once and for all. Competitive foods are just that, COMPETING with the healthy foods. I told them that I realized I don't have the amount clout or lobbying power as the beverage or snack industries to make a difference, but that it's about time we had an overhaul and a different approach.I described the nutrient-based criteria as being a slippery slope for companies to formulate products that slip under the cut points. Key word being FORMULATE....in a lab. The problem is the foods people are eating....adding more "soluble fiber" "vitamin C" and "calcium" to a snickers is all well and great, but you're still eating a SNICKERS.

I also quoted some research out this month from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Key Findings:

Vending machines were present in elementary (17%), middle (82%) and high schools (97%).

Food items sold separately (a la carte) were found in 71 percent of elementary schools, 92 percent of middle schools and 93 percent of high schools. Of these schools, almost 80 percent provided unhealthy food items in their a la carte options.

The food environment summary score was higher (healthier) in lower grade levels.

The food environment score was not significantly associated with the percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch or the percentage of students who belong to a racial/ethnic minority.

I then asked:
What we can learn from foreign countries nutrition policies?-

Britain will ban junk food from school meals and in-school vending machines beginning in September. (Is it possible that we do the same? GASP?!)

In France Many schools already employ their own nutritionist(Registered Dietitian), who works with a parents' committee to ensure lunches provide a healthy, balanced diet.

Much more is spent per meal than in Britain, with a French school lunch costing anything from £1.50 to £4 a head, depending on region. Poorer parents pay only a portion of the total.

And there's no pandering to children's love of pizzas, burgers or chips; these are adult menus served in child-size portions, as the French believe good eating habits start early.

I finished with this from Alice Waters, Today’s American children, “are bombarded with a pop culture which teaches redemption through buying things.” But schoolyard gardens, like the one she helped create at the middle school a few blocks from her home in Berkeley, “turn pop culture upside-down: they teach redemption through a deep appreciation for the real, the authentic, and the lasting—for the things that money can’t buy: the very things that matter most of all if we are going to lead sane, healthy, and sustainable lives. Kids who learn environmental and nutritional lessons through school gardening—and school cooking and eating—learn ethics.”

1 comment:

andy said...

Dearest Ashley,

Excellent hustle on this one, Sister. It's so comforting to know that I am fighting the Good Fight with folks such as yourself.

I believe that the RD's who work for school districts in the US are mostly there to bring in the National Dairy Council posters and help Coca-Cola rationalize "calcium-fortified, half the sugar! Sprite"