Why You Should Support the USDA’s New Dietary Guidelines

May 04, 2015

The USDA released new dietary guidelines.

Every five years, the federal government updates the dietary guidelines for all Americans.

These guidelines matter to school food advocates because the dietary guidelines provide the framework for the school meal standards. There is an opportunity for the public to weigh in on this important issue. We will be doing so, and we encourage you to also do this.

Here’s the background: The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, an independent group of prominent scientists appointed by the USDA whose job it is to help interpret scientific information for policy makers, released their recommendations for updating the dietary guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence. Unsurprisingly, they made recommendations that included eating more fruits and vegetables, eating more whole grains and less sugar and less processed foods.

…the U.S. population should be encouraged and guided to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in low- and nonfat dairy products and alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and beverages and refined grains.

What has surprised many people are their recommendation around water and how they for the first time took sustainability into account.

…encourage water as a preferred beverage when thirsty. Make water accessible in public settings, child care facilities, schools, worksites and other community places where beverages are offered.

and

…a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.

Opportunities to make changes such as these don’t come frequently, nor do they come without a fight. Pushback for these recommendations are strong and being driven by industry groups not wanting to see major changes to our food system. HSC strongly supports the recommendations and hope individuals and political leaders will let their voices be heard on this issue.

If you care about school food, about our food system, our environment, you should make your voice heard. Public comments are being accepted until May 8. And if you need some ideas on what to write, below is a sample letter that you can use or edit.

Dear HHS and USDA,

I’m writing to let you know my support for strong, clear nutrition standards as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

As the committee recommended, a diet composed of more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and less sugar and less processed foods is healthier for our nation. The committee also found that a diet higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods is better for both our health and the environment than the current American diet. These recommendations support the changes in the National School Lunch Program and should be fully embraced in the final Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

We urge you to support efforts to improve the health and environment for every American by listening to the scientists and experts who spent more than a year poring over the scientific evidence on public health to make these recommendations.

Thank you for your consideration.