NAPNAP Urges the Federal Government to Maintain Nutritional Standards in School Meals

With promotion of optional nutrition and prevention of childhood obesity prioritized in our Health Policy Agenda, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) is deeply disappointed by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s recent decision to delay full implementation of previously approved national standards for school breakfasts and lunches, which include strict standards on sodium content, whole grains and dairy.

“Combatting childhood obesity and its potential long-term effects such as diabetes and heart disease are critical both for the children at risk and our nation as a whole,” said NAPNAP President Laura Searcy, MN, APRN, PCNP-PC. “This is not the time to for governmental agencies to decrease their efforts ensure that children receive optimal nutrition in schools.”

Approximately 31 million children eat school-provided meals so it is imperative that those meals adhere to the highest possible nutritional standards for long-term positive health outcomes.

“Pediatric nurse practitioners and their fellow pediatric providers are at the forefront of health promotion. In conjunction with school nurses and leaders, we must educate children about nutritional choices for growth and development that will positively affect their health into adulthood. School-provided lunches must model healthy choices to further educate and inspire students,” said NAPNAP Childhood Obesity Special Interest Group Co-chair Margaret Quinn, DNP, CPNP.

During the past five years, exceptional changes were made to school lunches across the nation and 97 percent of schools are in compliance with the stricter standards. The nutritional quality of these meals has improved 30 percent. Creating healthier food options for children has been a positive step towards a healthier America.

Delaying or rolling back these standards will have negative consequences for our nation’s children. Intake of sodium in all diets exceeds the recommended daily allowance, and failure to require schools to maintain a lower sodium profile in meals contradicts healthy heart initiatives encouraged by the American Heart Association. Discontinuing standards for whole grains is another adverse influence on diet and caloric intake, as whole grains have numerous nutrients, fiber, and plant-based proteins.

In our 2015 “Prevention and Identification of Overweight and Obesity in the Pediatric Population” position statement, our childhood obesity experts outline priorities to combat childhood obesity, including early identification of infants and children at risk of being overweight, an age-specific anticipatory guidance on healthy eating and physical activities for parents, families and caregivers and continuity of care for children and adolescents identified as overweight or obese. Additionally, our Childhood Obesity Special Interest Group shares resources for families to learn more about life-long healthy decisions.