OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta joined a multistate comment letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) applauding the proposed guidelines for federal nutrition standards for school meals aimed at aligning the new standards to the goals of federal dietary guidelines. In the comment letter to USDA Administrator Cindy Long, the multistate coalition supports the USDA’s goal of establishing nutritious school meal standards, but urges the USDA to expand and strengthen the guidance to encourage healthier and medically sensitive standards for children’s meals in schools. The letter recommends further aligning the sodium content in school meals with dietary guidelines and improving access to milk substitution for children with dairy allergies and lactose intolerance.
“We want the best for our children so that they can learn and thrive in the classroom. The USDA’s proposed school meals guidance moves in the right direction to help young children build healthy habits and have access to nutritious food choices,” said Attorney General Bonta. “While the proposal is an important step, we urge the USDA to go even further, and expand the guidance to include children who suffer from dairy allergies and lactose intolerance and include more rigorous standards that align with updated dietary guidelines. It’s vital that our children have the nourishment they need so that they can excel in school.”
The coalition urges the USDA to strengthen and expand the guidance to be even more protective of children’s health. The negative health impacts and chronic diseases related to increased sodium intake are well-documented. High sodium intake puts children down a path for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Currently, well over a majority of American children exceed the recommended daily amount of sodium by more than 70%. Because lactose intolerance and dairy allergies are more common among children of color, barriers to receiving an appropriate milk substitute may disproportionately impact the health and education of students of color. The attorneys general urge the USDA to further reduce the final sodium targets while providing four additional years for schools to meet those targets, to issue guidance that streamlines the process for fluid milk substitution, and to support a public education campaign in schools on lactose intolerance and dairy allergies.
In filing the comment letter, Attorney General Bonta joins the attorneys general of New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.