State school board considering new nutrition proposal – Mountain Statesman

TAYLOR COUNTY—Today, West Virginia is considered a leader in school food standards. However, the consideration of a new proposed nutrition policy may change that current standing.

Jenny Anderson, director of West Virginia Parents Action for Wellness Network, shared that the West Virginia State School Board is entertaining the idea of a new proposal that would have the potential to lower the quality of WV school’s food standards, just as the childhood obesity rate within the state is beginning to drop.

According to information supplied by WV Nutrition Policy 4321.1, the new proposal for school meals will be to follow the United States Department of Agriculture minimum of school standards. The USDA has also announced plans lower federal school food standards in the near future.

West Virginia’s current childhood nutrition regulations, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, were adopted in 2008, as the standard for school meals. These dietary guidelines are more specific and stringent than the minimum standards of the USDA.

The current WV school nutrient guidelines limit the amount of sugars that are permitted in breakfast, and lunch foods, as well as school provided snacks. Under these guidelines any amount of caffeine is also prohibited at all grade levels.

If the new proposal is approved, there will no longer be any direct limitations on the amount of sugar allowed in lunch or breakfast foods. There will however, be limitations on the amount of sugars in sweetened grain products. Also, caffeine will be permitted at the high school level.

In addition, low calorie forms of soda will also be permitted back on high school campuses, under the new nutrition guidelines.

Anderson went on to share that the proposed policy change would have serious consequences on snack foods served outside of breakfast and lunch.

The current school’s policy also regulates foods that are permitted during celebrations. However, the new policy would have no regulation, other than requiring that food items must be pre-packaged.

“This is one of those things that looks little, but as a huge impact,” Anderson declared. “Now is not the time to take backward steps. If we can drop our child obesity rate, West Virginia truly does have a chance of getting off the top of the worst health lists.”

She reported that between 2011-2017, the obesity rate of the state’s second grade students dropped by 20 percent, according to measurements by West Virginia Universities Cardiac program. Anderson believes that much of the improvement can be credited to nutritious school food.

“Simply reading the proposed policy online will not tell you what its impact is,” informed Anderson. “The online description makes it sound like the proposal affects only celebrations and snacks, but in a nutshell, the policy appears to lock West Virginia’s entire food program in with federal minimum policies at a time when the feds are weakening the minimum policies. Under the Trump administration, the USDA has proposed weakening those minimum federal standards in various ways, some major.”

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