The Nutrition Policy Institute at the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources has commented in support of the US Department of Agriculture's "Child Nutrition Programs: Revisions to Meal Patterns Consistent With the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans" proposed new “durable” rule, which would enhance school nutrition standards. The proposed rule aligns school meal nutrition requirements with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. NPI welcomes and strongly supports the USDA's proposed limits on added sugars in school lunch and breakfast program meals. Extensive research has linked the consumption of added sugars to chronic diseases such as obesity, metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and dental decay. However, NPI added an important caveat to the proposed limits on added sugars, stating, “Nutrition Policy Institute strongly recommends that the USDA include language in the rule that restricts substitute sweeteners (e.g., artificial sweeteners, low and non-caloric sweeteners) in school meals, and explicitly not allow product reformulations that use substitute sweeteners in place of added sugars until such time as studies are conducted to assure our nation's children of their long-term safety.” Additionally, NPI commended the USDA for their inclusion of whole grains, reduced sodium, increased variety of fruits and vegetables, and traditional food options for Indigenous children, and for investment in technical assistance to school districts through the Healthy Meals Incentive Program. NPI points out that the US population is largely unhealthy, with only 12% of Americans metabolically healthy, and concludes that setting strong nutrition standards for school meals would help support the nutrition and health of more than 30 million school-age children receiving school lunches, and 15 million children receiving school breakfasts. The public comment window for the proposed revisions closes on May 10, 2023.
The USDA recently proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages, which includes a permanent increase to the cash value benefit (CVB) for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables. In response, the Nutrition Policy Institute submitted a public comment to the Federal Register in strong support of this revision. The comment focuses on NPI-led research that highlights benefits associated with an increase to the CVB– including reduced food insecurity and improved dietary intake. Most notable is a large study of nearly 8,000 WIC participants from several states, who shared the desire for a greater variety of WIC food options, particularly more fruits, vegetables, and dairy alternatives. Additional research on WIC participants' perspectives of the program suggested that increases to the CVB were well received by WIC participants, and support participant retention and satisfaction with WIC. As the USDA reassesses the WIC food package, the research provided in NPI's public comment illustrates the benefits stemming from temporary changes to WIC. The public comment period was open from November 21, 2022 to February 21, 2023. All submitted comments are available online on Regulations.gov.
Development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2025-2030 (DGA) is underway. The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture recently asked for public comments on the proposed scientific questions to be examined in the review of evidence supporting the development of the DGA. Nutrition Policy Institute's senior policy advisor, Christina Hecht, submitted comments to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture regarding scientific questions related to sugar-sweetened beverages and drinking water to be examined to support the development of the DGA. The public comment period was open from April 15 to May 16, 2022. Public comments are available to the public online through Regulations.gov. HHS and USDA will consider all public comments posted to Regulations.gov in relation to the specified criteria. Comments will be used to prioritize the scientific questions to be examined by the 2025 DGA Advisory Committee. In the coming months, HHS and USDA will seek nominations from the public for the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Sign up to receive email updates on the DGA development process and other related news.
The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR)–a U.S. federal regulation under the administration of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–limits the concentration of lead and copper allowed in utility-provided tap water. The LCR provides requirements for various actions to monitor and reduce lead and copper content of tap water and to inform the public. The EPA recently undertook the first revision of the LCR in 30 years with the Trump administration publishing final revisions on January 15, 2021. However, on January 20, 2021, the Biden administration issued a Regulatory Freeze Pending Review memorandum to ensure any new or pending rules be reviewed by the new presidential appointees or designees and be re-opened for public comment. The EPA posted an extension of the effective date of the revised LCR on April 14 to enable the agency to seek further public input, particularly from communities most at-risk of exposure to lead in drinking water. Nutrition Policy Institute's (NPI) Christina Hecht and Angie Cradock of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health submitted one of the over 20,000 public comments providing recommendations for the final revision of the LCR. Hecht and Cradock's comment focused on school drinking water safety, providing recommendations based on their findings from a comprehensive study of states' school drinking water lead testing initiatives and lead test results. Their recommendations included: testing all taps used for human consumption in school and childcare facilities, rather than the subset–5 taps in schools, 2 in child care–required by the earlier proposed revision; a faster timeline for initial testing of all taps; and a lower action level for lead in tap water.
- Author: Danielle L. Lee
The UC Nutrition Policy Institute submitted comments to the USDA on December 27, 2020 in opposition of a proposed rule to return flavored milk to school cafeterias. In their comment, NPI argues that reintroduction of chocolate milk into the USDA school breakfast and school lunch programs is "contrary to science" and would negate efforts to lower consumption of added sugars. The comment highlights a recent study by NPI in collaboration with the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health, on the impact of removing chocolate milk from the school lunch program. The study examined the effects of removing chocolate milk as part of efforts to reduce added sugar from the lunch program at middle and high schools in the San Francisco Unified School District during the 2017-18 school year. The study assessed the effect of chocolate milk removal policy on student milk selection, waste, and overall consumption and to estimate changes in calcium, protein, vitamin D, and added sugar intake among racially/ethnically and socioeconomically diverse secondary school students. The study found that, despite a slight decrease in student milk consumption after the policy was passed, student intake of milk's key nutrients -- calcium, protein, and vitamin D -- were not reduced, nor was there any increase in milk waste. Furthermore, students' consumption of added sugar from milk declined significantly, thus achieving the district's purpose in removing chocolate milk. The comment was developed in collaboration with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.