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USDA Official Addresses School Nutrition Community on Efforts to Promote Healthier Diets for Nation's Children

Release No.

USDA Office of Communications (202) 720-4623

NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 11, 2011 — USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Janey Thornton today highlighted the importance of USDA Foods and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act during the 2011 School Nutrition Association national convention. Thornton joined thousands of school nutrition professionals at the three-day event which offers an opportunity for a dialogue on the administration's efforts to ensure healthier meals in the National School Breakfast and Lunch programs.

"The School Nutrition Association is a strong partner in the Obama Administration's effort to ensure that our nation's school children are provided the most nutritious food possible," said USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Janey Thornton. "For many children, the food they receive in school is their primary source of nutrition. By working closely with our school nutrition professionals, we are creating the healthy school environment needed to ensure our children are engaged and productive learners."

With one in every three children in America at risk for preventable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease due to overweight and obesity, school nutrition improvements are an investment in improving our children's future and are critical to helping them maintain optimal health. School meals currently reach nearly 32 million children each school day nationwide, and many children consume as many as half their daily calories at school.

USDA purchases between 15-20 percent of the foods served in school meals. USDA offers more than 180 nutritious foods, including more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and foods that are lower in fat, salt, and added sugars than ever before. Schools are choosing to use USDA Foods in more healthful ways. Many schools have eliminated fried foods and have opted to showcase USDA Foods as part of lower sodium menu items that appeal to children. USDA Foods are 100 percent American-grown, support American agriculture, and help schools stretch their food budgets. The 101,000 schools and institutions that participate in the National School Lunch Program are thinking more and more creatively about how to serve healthful options that kids will enjoy.

Improving child nutrition is the focal point of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by President Obama in December 2010. The legislation, which reauthorized the Child Nutrition and WIC programs, will allow USDA, for the first time in over 30 years, the chance to make real reforms to the school meals programs improve the nutrition and hunger safety net for millions of children, and help a new generation win the future by having healthier lives. The Act is the legislative centerpiece of the Let's Move! initiative.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service oversees 15 nutrition assistance programs that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. The programs work together to form a national safety net against hunger. The National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs provide nutritionally balanced, free and low-cost meals to nearly 32 million school children each school day. SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, puts healthy food in reach for more than 44 million Americans each month, half of whom are children.