Guest Post: Alliance for a Healthier Generation Support for Schools

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Part One of a Four-Part series of guest posts by Kim Kengor, National School Nutrition Manager for the Alleiance for a Healthier Generation.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation was founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and William J. Clinton Foundation with the goal of reducing the prevalence of childhood obesity.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010 reauthorizes several child nutrition programs and makes significant changes. Administrators, educators and school nutrition professionals have expressed concerns about their ability to implement the new requirements of this law with existing resources. The following provides an overview of the required changes and resources the Alliance for a Healthier Generation provides to help schools with implementation:

School Meals

  • Adds an increase of six cents per meal to help schools meet new meal standards for healthier school meals (the President and some Senators requested ten cents per meal)
  • Directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop model product specifications for USDA commodity foods used in school meals
  • Allows only lower-fat milk options to be served, as recommended in the Dietary Guidelines
  • · Provides $5 million a year in mandatory funding for farm-to-school programs

The USDA proposed rule for school meals, released January 2011, includes:

  1. Increased amount of fruit at breakfast
  2. Increased amount of vegetables at lunch
  3. Requirement for specific weekly amount of orange and dark green vegetables and legumes
  4. A one cup per week limit on starchy vegetables
  5. Requirement for half of all grains to be whole grain at implementation. All grains must be whole grain within two years after implementation
  6. Milk offerings limited to 1% fat or skim plain and skim flavored
  7. Trans fats must be listed as zero on nutrition labels
  8. Limitations on sodium content of meals to be phased in over a ten year period

Alliance Support: The Alliance has incorporated elements of both the USDA rule and the Healthier US Schools Challenge into its Framework of best practices. We provide Healthy Schools Program participating schools with a wide array of resources, including toolkits, training materials, recipes, newsletters, a large online resource database and access to a team of experts. Our agreements with food manufacturers, group purchasing organizations and technology companies make obtaining healthier school foods easier and more affordable. Additional links to tools and resources can be found at www.healthiergeneration.org/schoolmeals.

Competitive Foods and Beverages

  • Gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish national nutrition standards for all foods sold on the school campus throughout the school day

Alliance Support: The draft standards are expected for public consideration by December 2011 with another 12-18 months proposed for finalization. The Alliance will continue to support implementation of its School Beverage and Competitive Foods Guidelines, or stricter standards, in schools across the country via:

  1. Electronic and telephonic technical assistance
  2. Online tools such as the Healthy Schools Product Navigator® at www.HealthierGeneration.org/productnavigator and the Product Calculator at www.HealthierGeneration.org/productcalculator
  3. Live and recorded webinars
  4. Dedicated websites for:

The tools and services noted above can also help schools meet – and exceed – the following HUSSC award levels as they relate to the Alliance Guidelines:

  • The School Beverage Guidelines are best aligned with the HUSSC Gold Award with the addition of calorie limitations for milk and juices and extra nutrients for juices. 
  • The Competitive Foods Guidelines are best aligned with the HUSSC Gold Award of Distinction, especially for high schools where the 200 calorie allowances match.

Before and Afterschool Programs

  • Expands the Afterschool Meal Program to all states
  • Effective Oct. 1, 2010, all institutions participating in the at-risk afterschool care component of CACFP were eligible to claim reimbursement at the free rate for up to one snack and one meal served to each eligible participant per day. At-risk afterschool meals and snacks must be served free of charge and are reimbursed at the applicable free rates. 
  • USDA provides reimbursement for meals and snacks served in afterschool programs that:
    • Are located at sites where at least half of the children in the school attendance area are eligible for free and reduced price school meals. 
    • Offer educational or enrichment activities, after the regular school day ends or on weekends and holidays, during times of the year when school is in session. 
    • Serve nutritionally balanced meals and snacks that meet USDA’s nutrition standards.

Alliance Support: The Alliance will continue to support implementation of the Student Wellness Criteria relating to afterschool snacks/meal and programming by:

  1. Electronic and telephonic technical assistance 
  2. Cohosting webinars with the Food and Action Research Center (FRAC) and the Healthy Out-of-School Time Coalition (HOST) to provide an overview of the changes made to the USDA’s reimbursable snack and meal program. 
  3. Provide updates to Afterschool Providers through the Alliance’s eNewsletters and Student Wellness webpage as well as links to the afterschool snack and meal section of USDA’s website. For additional information on the law’s afterschool meal and snack provisions, view FRAC’s recorded webinar, “What You Need to Know about Afterschool Meals.”

Policy and Systems

The Alliance Framework of best practices strengthens local school wellness policies by updating the requirements of the policies, and requiring opportunities for public input, transparency and an implementation plan. The Alliance Policy and Systems criteria include:

  • School is implementing the district wellness policy and providing feedback to the district regarding its progress annually
  • Family members, guardians and students have the opportunity to provide input to the implementation of wellness policy activities
  • The status of wellness policy implementation at the school level is communicated annually to the school staff, students and families
  • School wellness council/committee recommends new or revised health or wellness policies and activities to the district
  • School’s wellness goals are integrated into the overall School Improvement Plan

The Alliance will continue to provide technical assistance and resources including updates and articles on the Policy and Systems webpage at www.HealthierGeneration.org/policy. Go to the webpage to find links to the Policy and Systems Toolkit and the School Wellness Council Toolkit. The Alliance also provides webinars on the Policy and Systems criteria that are available to all Healthy Schools Program schools.

To access all of the Alliance resources for schools, join the Healthy Schools Program at www.healthiergeneration.org/schools. It’s fast, easy and free.

 


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