Professional Development

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Why the School Meal Flexibility Rule Matters for Afterschool

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently published a new School Meal Flexibility Rule that will weaken nutrition standards aimed at reducing sodium and increasing whole grains for meals provided under the USDA's National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.

Additionally, schools will now have the discretion to serve one-percent flavored milk, a move that unnecessarily allows more sugar and calories to be added to our children's diets.

The changes proposed by the Flexibility Rule also undermine the tremendous progress made by afterschool educators across the country in voluntarily adopting the National AfterSchool Association Standards for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity.

Thousands of afterschool professionals have championed healthy eating before school, afterschool and during the summer. Furthermore, we know that 7 in 10 parents want programs to offer healthy meals, snacks and beverages.

Because 73 percent of families report that their child's afterschool program is located in a public school building, any changes to school meals directly impact the content of meals and snacks served during out-of-school program hours. Afterschool leaders are passionate and creative; rolling back school meal standards puts unfair pressure on these hardworking volunteers and professionals.

Additionally, the data does not support the need for additional flexibility. According to the USDA, 99 percent of schools nationwide reported meeting the existing nutrition standards. Overcoming staff turnover, funding challenges and capacity limitations, the afterschool field has worked hard to make healthy eating a priority during out-of-school time program hours

The 10.2 million children in afterschool deserve healthy futures—now is not the time to reverse progress towards that reality. Instead of lowering standards, now is the time to encourage out-of-school time program leaders and schools to work together to ensure all children experience healthy growth and development.

To take action in your community, read How Afterschool Can Support School Meals: 3 Activities.

Authored by Alliance for a Healthier Generation, National AfterSchool Association and National Institute on Out-of-School Time.

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