Statement from Lynn Silver, MD, MPH Senior Advisor, Chronic Disease and Obesity Prevention, Public Health Institute and California Project LEAN
“The Public Health Institute and California Project Lean, a program of the Public Health Institute, are pleased that Congress’s agreement on Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2015 largely protects critical public health provisions, including school food and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“The biggest win was for children, as school nutrition standards established through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act survived mostly intact. In spite of concerted efforts by some in Congress to roll back the standards, a major push by public health and nutrition advocates including PHI and partners across the nation helped keep the rules in place.
“Congress essentially maintained level funding for child nutrition, allocating $21.3 billion in mandatory funding, including: $16 million to continue summer food demonstration projects and $25 million for competitive grants for schools to purchase equipment needed to serve healthier meals, improve food safety, and help support the school breakfast program.
“A few backwards steps were taken. States can now grant “hardship” exemptions from school meals’ whole grain standards, established in July 2014, which required that 100% of grains in school meals be whole grain rich.
“Salt reduction provisions that would have gradually lowered sodium were also weakened. The initial salt reduction levels for meals and snacks will remain in place, requiring the USDA to once again show that sodium reduction is beneficial to children before mandating further reductions, a role advocates hope the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee will promptly fill. The language on WIC also allowed white potatoes back into the WIC package, a disappointing step that undermines the rigorous science on which this successful nutrition program is based.
“While most of the progress on school food was preserved, it is unfortunate that politics and industry pressure overrode science on these few provisions. It will be essential to continue strong advocacy for healthier school food and federal nutrition programs including WIC, SNAP and SNAP-Ed as the FY 2015 appropriations process is finalized and we look ahead to FY 2016.”