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BOX 2-1

Working Principles for Determining Recommendations for Revisions to the Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements for School Meals

  1. The present and future health and well-being of schoolchildren are profoundly affected by their food and nutrient intakes and the maintenance of healthy body weight.

    1. School meals, when they are consumed, should improve food and nutrient intakes, and those intakes that are inadequate or excessive in school-aged children should specifically be targeted.

    2. School meals are targeted to children ages 4 through 18 years, but younger children and children of all ages with special needs may be affected by the standards set for the general population.

    3. Recognition will be given to health effects of foods (including beverages) that go beyond those related to their nutrient content.

  1. School breakfast and lunch programs, which may contribute to more than 50 percent of the caloric intake by children on school days, offer opportunities to promote the health and well-being of children.

    1. School meals can contribute to beneficial health and dietary patterns and are uniquely positioned to provide a model for healthy meals and to provide opportunities to model and reinforce healthy eating behaviors.

    2. School meals can provide a platform for education in nutrition, environmental responsibility, and food safety.

    3. School meals can be a positive environment for pleasant social interactions.

    4. For children in families characterized by limited resources and food insecurity, school meals provide a critical safety net in meeting their nutritional needs and reducing the adverse effects of food insecurity.

  1. School breakfast and lunch programs operate in a challenging and changing environment.

    1. School food service environments (such as facilities, equipment, labor, and skills) are complex and highly varied across the nation as well as from school to school within school districts.

    2. Challenges include the need to meet food safety standards, offer appetizing foods to an increasingly diverse population, adjust to the changes in the available food supply, improve the image and appeal of the program, and achieve a sound financial operation.

    3. Food costs, other direct costs, and indirect costs related to program operation are outpacing the available resources.

    4. In addition to promoting the health and well-being of children, high rates of participation may support the financial stability of school meal programs.

    5. Efforts to change the current school nutrition environments vary, with some districts already making significant strides and others just starting the process of change.

  1. Because scientific findings and authoritative recommendations related to the nutrition of children evolve over time, the process of developing recommendations for revisions should be transparent and designed to take into account new evidence-based findings and recommendations.

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