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N.M. ahead in meeting new nutrition standards

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School standards already meet new recommendations

By Special to the Monitor

SANTA FE — New Mexico’s school food standards already meet new recommendations made to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act introduced in the United States Senate last week. 

U. S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Tom Harkin introduced four key elements that would be added to the Act for national school nutrition standards inserted into the federal Child Nutrition Act.  These elements include:

•       Improving the nutritional quality of school meals to help children meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

•      Raising the federal reimbursement rates for school meals to better ensure that all children receive a nutritious meal.

•      Updating standards for foods sold outside the school meal to be healthful and meet the best available nutrition science.

•      Providing funds to support nutrition education and promotion programs that help children learn how to make healthy choices.

In February, 2006, the Public Education Department (PED) adopted the “Nutrition: Competitive Foods Sales Rule.”  The purpose of this rule was to help ensure that students, when sold food or beverages produced on the school campus, have healthy choices among the products sold.  New Mexico also regulated foods sold outside of school hours, requiring that at least 50% of the foods/beverages sold be healthy choices in fund raisers outside of normal school hours (e.g. sport concession stands, etc).

“New Mexico’s Making Schools Work Agenda recognizes the importance of sound nutrition and health and its impact on student achievement and overall well being,” said New Mexico Secretary of Education Veronica C. García.  “We as adults need to ensure that children have healthy food choices in school. I’m pleased that New Mexico was proactive in addressing this critical issue.”

PED’s nutrition rules are compared to the recommendations below.

• Improving the nutritional quality of school meals to help children meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

• The NM PED Student Nutrition Bureau (SNB) reviews for every school that participates in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the National Breakfast Program (NBP), analyzing and improving the nutritional quality of school meals to help children meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

•   The Nutrikids program is one of the essential technical aids used by the PED to insure that schools are reaching or exceeding their goal; providing the vital nutrients to students

The Nutrikids database is a comprehensive bank of source codes within recipes

to inform parents and school administrators of the calorie, protein, fat percentage, iron, vitamin A, Vitamin C and calcium in meals.

• Raising the federal reimbursement rates for school meals to better ensure that all children receive a nutritious meal.

• The New Mexico Student Nutrition Association has lobbied at the federal level to increase the amount of federal reimbursement that school districts receive for the school lunch and breakfast programs.

• The New Mexico Legislature has allocated funds to increase the number of children eating breakfast with HB 2 2009 (appropriation of $ 3.43 million for school breakfast), although there was a reduction from the 2010 Legislature’s HB 10 ( $223,000) to $3,207,500.  

Currently, School Breakfast in HB 2 is at $2 million.

Updating standards for foods sold outside the school meal to be healthful and meet the best available nutrition science.

• The Center for Safe and Health Schools produced a Policy Update:  (Science-Based Nutrition Standards for Foods in School www.nasbe.org/index.php/shs/80-he-projectnews/130-he-sbnsfs).

This update includes the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations for nutrition standards for foods sold in or served at school outside of the federal school meals program

• Providing funds to support nutrition education and promotion programs that help children learn how to make healthy choices.

• Although funding was not provided for nutrition education, Health Education is required to be taught in New Mexico schools.  Nutrition education is required as part of the New Mexico Health Education Content Standards with Benchmarks and Performance Standards.  

• In 2010 legislation was passed strengthening the requirement for health education.  Health education is required to be taught:

• All first, second and third grade classes to provide instruction that meets content standards, benchmarks and performance standards in health education.

• In fourth through eighth grades, the provision of instruction that meets academic content and performance standards shall be provided in health education.

• In ninth through 12th grades, the provision of instruction that meets academic content and performance standards shall be provided in health education.

• For students entering the eighth grade in the 2012-2013 school year, a course in health education is required prior to graduation. Health education may be required in either middle school or high school, as determined by the school district.