Federal programs that serve breakfast, lunch and after-school meals to more than 30 million students nationwide will be reexamined by Congress this year. More than half of all America’s children participate in one or more of these programs. Falling under the umbrella of the Child Nutrition Act, these programs ensure that pregnant women, infants and children, particularly from low income families, have access to food at home through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, in child care through the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), during school hours through the School Breakfast and Lunch Programs, during out-of-school time via afterschool and summer programs, and in homeless and domestic violence shelters. These programs are administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) under its Food and Nutrition Service and by state and local agencies. All these programs must follow USDA dietary and Food Pyramid guidelines.
In addition to reviewing the effectiveness of these programs and modifying them to ensure that those who are in need will be included, the Congress will address the burgeoning epidemic of obesity. Also of concern is the ever increasing incidence of type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer.
At the same time that the Congress is holding hearings on obesity and child nutrition, the USDA under its Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is reevaluating its Dietary Guidelines and Food Pyramid. The Center plans to issue newly revised guidelines and a new food pyramid by early 2005. It is currently seeking comments to be considered in the revision process. WIC’s food packages, which include soy infant formula, are also undergoing revision by the USDA and will be issued in 2005. The Weston A. Price Foundation will submit its comments on both these guidelines in the next several months.
The Foundation is focusing on four areas during the Congressional deliberations on child nutrition and obesity. These include:
Exclusion of soy infant formula from the WIC food package unless required by a doctor’s prescription. As the program is administered today, African American and other minority women receive soy formula under the assumption that their babies are lactose intolerant. They can only switch to milk-based formula with a doctor’s prescription. We are urging more emphasis on breast-feeding and that all formula-fed infants be provided with milk-based formula as a first choice.
Revision of the USDA’s dietary guidelines and abandonment of the Food Pyramid. The Foundation recommends guidelines based on four food groups: 1) meat and dairy, 2) grains and legumes, 3) fruits and vegetables, and 4) healthy fats and oils, with warnings to consume sweets, white flour products, vegetable oils and processed food sparingly.
Expansion of the federal Farm-to-School Fruit and Vegetable program to include pasture-raised meats. The Farm-to-School Program was created to partner local farmers with nearby schools, so that children can enjoy fruits and vegetables, and farmers can develop an additional source of income. The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC), which provides administrative assistance to this program, proposes a new seed grant program that will fund local and regional farm produce for school cafeterias. The Foundation would expand this proposal to include pasture-raised meats and cheese. The proposal would also create experimental nutritional education programs and develop a collaborative approach to implementing the program.
Elimination of soft drinks and high-sugar-content fruit juices in schools from high school vending machines. At least 20 states have introduced legislation to limit low-nutrition food in schools. The Foundation encourages the Congress to prohibit the sale of soft drinks in our schools while encouraging the preparation of nutrient-dense foods.
Please join me on Monday, May 5 during the Wise Traditions Annual Conference to meet your Congressional Representative and Senators and their staff in order to introduce them to the Foundation and the issues we support. Please contact me at info (at) westonaprice.org to help you set up your Congressional meetings. Make your voice heard! You make a difference! You are the difference!
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2003.