RICHMOND – Today in an event at Catoctin Elementary School in Leesburg, Va., U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the USDA will delay full implementation of the nutrition standards passed into law by the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). The action will weaken requirements to provide healthier food to students, allowing for flexibility in reaching whole-grain benchmarks and delaying sodium reduction targets.
First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe, a long-time advocate for children and school nutrition, expressed disappointment in the decision, but stipulated that these only impact minimum standards and encouraged additional support for school nutrition programs. The Virginia Department of Education reports that 100% of Virginia School Food Authorities (SFAs) are in compliance with current standards.
“My mission as First Lady has been to end childhood hunger in the Commonwealth. There has been no greater partner in this work than Virginia’s school nutrition directors and their dedicated team members. I am encouraged that the Trump Administration is not pursuing a full roll-back of the standards, which have been successful at improving nutritional intake and health outcomes for our students from all backgrounds. We must balance the need for administrative flexibility with evidence-based nutrition research,” said Mrs. McAuliffe.
She added, “Food is the best preventative medicine and when it comes to our children, it's our responsibility to do the best we can on their behalf. We will work closely with our school divisions to build on the progress that was made under HHFKA, ensuring that they have the resources they need to provide nutritional and good-tasting meals, and set our kids up for a lifetime of healthy eating.”
Nutrition Director for Norfolk Public Schools, Helen Philips, expressed her support for continuing to improve the nutritional quality of school meal programs, remarking that, “It is part of our job to educate children on healthy food choices, and we can only do that effectively if the foods we offer reflect what we are teaching.”
For more than three years, the First Lady has led the effort to expand access to healthy food in Virginia’s schools, particularly through school breakfast, afterschool meal, and summer meal programs. In 2017, Virginia is on pace to serve 8 million more school breakfasts than in 2014.