by Marion Nestle
Jun 10 2014

Dueling infographics on the school lunch wars

Thanks to Tracy Fox for sending the latest salvos in the absurd political fight over nutrition standards for school meals.

The first comes from the School Nutrition Association (scroll down to find the image).  This is the organization increasingly discredited for its close ties to food companies that supply products for school meals, as well as its lobbying of Congress on behalf of those companies .

Screenshot 2014-06-10 13.38.07


The second comes from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a major funder of anti-obesity initiatives.


This particular political fight isn’t over yet.  The School Nutrition Association is on the wrong side of this issue, as shown by the divisions in its ranks—the 19 former presidents who wrote Congress to oppose weakening the standards, for example.

Who loses in this one?  Kids’ health, alas.

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  • Mell

    Fight,yes but for better nutrition standards for our kids in the schools.The number of obese children is increasing,we have allergies of epidemic proportions and other diseases directly connected with poor nutrition and junky food.

  • Grennan Lentz Sims

    Nutrition habits typically develop at home with whatever foundation has
    been established by the parental unit. If children are not exposed to
    and encouraged to eat healthy at home, very rarely does it happen in
    other environments. Likewise, if parents provide healthy meals/snacks
    and model appropriate choices and behaviors, children are more likely to
    make healthy choices away from home, regardless of the setting.

    It takes EVERYONE in all environments to come together to solve the
    childhood obesity epidemic and prevent chronic disease – home,
    restaurants, vending machines, schools, ball parks, entertainment
    venues, dr’s offices, the zoo, amusement parks, etc. Schools cannot do
    it alone. Also, kids (and adults) need to be physically active
    everyday. Unplug from the world and get out there and experience it!
    Diet alone will not solve the problem. It’s a balanced equation.
    Therefore, it takes a balanced approach in all areas of life, not just
    while at school.

    School nutrition folks want the same thing Congress does – healthy kids
    ready to learn and grow! Do not judge what you do not have all the
    facts about. There is more at work behind what the media prints. BOTH
    sides have things to improve upon… together. Politics needs to be
    removed, FROM BOTH entities, and focus on the goal. Decisions must be
    made by everyone based on one fact, “Is it good or what’s best for the

    Before anyone judges what is offered in school meals, I challenge you to
    go visit a local school cafeteria and try for yourself. I KNOW you
    will see more fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low fat
    dairy than when you were a kid!!! No one is asking for that to go
    away. No one is asking to stop offering fruits and veggies. No one is
    asking to go back to just serving white gushy bread. No one is asking to
    start selling fried foods again. School nutrition folks just want
    Congress to SLOW DOWN the new regs so they can catch their breath.

    Slow down so kids taste buds can get accustom to a whole grain texture
    that they may or may not get at home… slow down so kids can retrain
    their taste buds to drink skim milk… so kids become more be willing to
    try some of those fruits and veggies not exposed to at home… so they
    can get used to the idea of ALWAYS having a fruit or vegetable at
    breakfast and lunch… so the kids can get used to foods with less
    sodium… I could go on and on.

    Any registered dietitian alive, myself included, would NEVER tell a
    patient to completely overhaul their entire diet OVER NIGHT! It would
    set them up for ultimate failure. That is what the USDA asked school
    nutrition teams across America to do. Instead of changing just one or
    two (maybe three) things each year, letting schools become successful
    with THOSE first and letting kids taste buds adjust, the USDA forced
    them to change MULTIPLE MULTIPLE facets of the program all at once for
    the first time in over 15 years! Much of those changes did need to
    happen… but not overnight.

    Just think about it… If you typically drink whole or 2% milk, consume
    high fat foods, loaded with sodium, never eat fruits or veggies, let
    alone get all your color subgoups in (red/orange, dark green, legumes,
    starchy and other), you rarely eat whole grains, fruit at breakfast
    beyond juice is foreign to you, AND you’re used to eating large
    portions… could you change ALL of those habits overnight with

    If I asked you to switch from whole or 2% milk to fat-free skim milk
    tomorrow, could you do it? How long could you do it? What if I asked
    you to mix 1% milk with your 2% for a couple months, then switch to 1%
    for couple months, then mix in fat free skim milk with your 1% for a
    couple months, then try skim… do you think you’d be successful? I
    DO! I might even ask you to add fruit to every meal, while also trying
    the different milk. I still think you’d be successful. I think you
    could even handle having whole grain toast. But if I tell you to do it
    ALL, TONIGHT and too dang bad if you don’t like it, because it’s your
    only choice… I think you’ll fail. Not because you suck. Not because
    you aren’t capable. But effective long term change take a systematic
    approach over time in order to be sustainable. That’s behavioral change,
    people. That’s business and economics. That’s common sense. And not
    just for the kids to adjust, but also for the school nutrition staff to
    learn (in some cases) how to prepare fresh fruits and vegetables, how to
    prepare foods with less fat, how to make a palatable whole grain hot
    roll, etc, etc. Small changes over time lead to HUGE results and long
    term success!

    Let’s keep what is already established in place. Get really good at
    it. Bring ALL school districts across the nation up to speed to meet
    current standards. THEN, let’s focus on a systematic approach to get to
    our final outcome and goal… healthy kids ready to learn and lead the

    And, let’s stop arguing and pointing fingers like preschoolers. It
    really does take a village to raise a child. Together we CAN do this! I
    know we can. I believe in us… I believe in you.

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  • tuhaybey

    You can find more general political infographics at

  • Katy1493

    Nice infographics, thanks! We’ve got used to fast, junk food and these unhealthy products are very bad for the stomach, health in total, and add extra pounds. Why schools don’t recommend fat loss
    and promote healthy lifestyle? Parents and teachers should teach kids that natural and organic products are very useful and are needed to be slim and healthy. It’s easy for me to refuse from fast food, junk food, you know, I don’t like it at all, as I realize that these are unnecessary calories, fat and I gain no benefit. Students should realize that, too.

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