Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I appreciate USDA's work to improve nutrition and physical activity in schools, and I strongly support the "Local School Wellness Policy Implementation" proposed rule.
As you know, over the last three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled. Most children's diets fail to meet the Dietary Guidelines, and few children meet recommendations for daily physical activity. Because children spend many hours at school, it is critical that schools adopt policies that support healthy eating and physical activity. In particular, I am excited to see that the proposed local wellness policy standards would finally ensure only nutritious foods that meet USDA standards will be allowed to be marketed and advertised in schools. We've worked so hard to remove junk food from our schools, so why should we continue to promote them?
I strongly support the following in the rule:
- All local school wellness policies should address specific goals for nutrition promotion and education, physical activity, and other school-based activities that promote student wellness. In addition, the policies should address nutrition guidelines for all foods and beverages available during the school day, and should only permit marketing of foods and beverages that meet USDA's "Smart Snacks" standards.
- There should be at least one school official who serves as the designated contact for the wellness policy and who has authority and responsibility to ensure that each school complies with the policy.
- A diverse team of stakeholders, including parents, school officials, students, community members, etc., should be involved in developing and implementing the local wellness policy. In addition, the policy and assessment of implementation should be made publicly available.
- Regular assessments of the local wellness policy, as well as annual reports to demonstrate schools' progress toward meeting wellness policy goals, are essential for ensuring that each school complies with the policy.
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Thank you for proposing these much-needed updates to strengthen nutrition and physical activity in schools. I urge you to quickly finalize the rule, and work with schools to ensure full implementation.
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