Poor diet puts 1/3 of kids on path to diabetes
May 27th, 2014
Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pots in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
It's been a long time. A very long time. But I cannot forget my first school lunch.
Call it free or call it charity, but it was a good meal that provided me, and so many others, with sustenance that made our school days more delightful. Our meals honored the traditions of the time - red beans and rice with smoked sausage, bread and perhaps dessert. And of course every Friday we had fish sticks, potato salad or French fries.
We've come a long way since then. Today, most public school children get perfectly balanced meals. School chefs use food selected to provide maximum nutrition, food that will enhance a student's well-being and learning abilities. Their standards come from federal nutrition experts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture who survey what important foods are missing from children's diets.
More than 90% of the nation's schools follow these criteria. Come September, guidelines for healthier snacks will be added. Still, for all our efforts, the White House reports that, because of a poor diet, one-third of our children are on the path to diabetes.
Regulations implementing the nutritional guidelines must be legislated by Congress. As it considers the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, Congress - especially House Republicans - will have to decide if it represents the interests of our children or of special food lobbyists.
For example, the Maryland-based School Nutrition Association has sought, and received, congressional support to grant a one-year waiver from the standards to schools that can demonstrate six months of financial loss. The group represents 55,000 school lunch workers and nutritionists. But The Washington Post quoted a health professional who said the group reflects its funders, who are mostly frozen food and agribusiness interests.