major focus of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" anti-obesity drive is encouraging schools to serve healthier school breakfasts and lunches. The aim is to combine voluntary and mandatory programs to rid schools of junk food. An important driver of change is through the federal Child Nutrition Act, up for reauthorization in Congress this year.
According to Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, "our children are eating too much sugar, salt, and fats and too few fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. This mix may help explain why one-half of the calories consumed by children ages 6-11 in this country are 'empty' calories."
Congress is being asked to bolster funding for school meal reimbursement, food service worker training and upgraded kitchens. Some of the money would be used to serve more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products in schools.
In a series of announcements on Tuesday, school food vendors, food manufacturers and beverage makers said they would voluntarily make their products healthier, rather than wait for mandatory guidelines or risk losing school contracts.
• Sodexho, Chartwells School Dining Services and Aramark, according to the White House, voluntarily agreed to decrease within five years sugar, salt and fat in school meals. Within 10 years, they'll increase whole grains and double the amount of produce served to students.
• As part of a drive to make it easier for consumers to make "healthy choices" while not telling people what to do, the American Beverage Association announced it will, voluntarily, put "clear, uniform front-of-pack" calorie information on cans and bottles. The information is already on the backs of the drink containers.
• Kraft Foods, with global headquarters in Northfield, and Sara Lee Corp., headquartered in Downers Grove, were among the food companies signing a letter to join Mrs. Obama's healthy eating drive.