Welcome to National Nutrition Month® 2018! Throughout March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging everyone to “Go Further With Food.” This is such a timely topic for millions of people. Preparing our foods to go further, by planning meals and snacks in advance, can help to reduce food loss and waste. Helping consumers to learn how to manage food resources help maximize nutrients and save money.
As a school food service director in a rural, low-income area of Georgia, I see the challenges and the benefits every day. School nutrition programs have received criticism about supposed increased food waste since new standards were instituted as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. In my county, we make sure we don’t have food waste by giving kids choices of fruits and vegetables when they come through the serving line. Offer versus serve allows children to pick up what they will eat, not plating food that may not be eaten. Serving leftovers the next day reduces waste. Kids in my schools’ lunch lines routinely ask if there is any leftover beef stir-fry from the day before!
Right now, Congress is working on the next Farm Bill – a huge piece of legislation that touches on virtually every aspect of our country’s food supply. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, representing more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners in the U.S. and around the world, believes the Farm Bill must help promote healthy people, healthful food systems and a strong economy.
We must make the healthy choice the easy choice for people with low incomes, and who may live in underserved communities with limited access to affordable and healthful foods. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) help accomplish this goal and serve as our nation’s nutrition safety net. SNAP is critical to addressing basic nutritional needs for families, and when coupled with nutrition education, can help encourage healthy eating. The Farm Bill has the opportunity to reauthorize the effective SNAP Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention grants (SNAP-Ed) and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
These programs encourage healthy eating and help people build skills to manage their limited financial resources to avoid food insecurity. SNAP-Ed and EFNEP teach food selection and preparation skills that continue to benefit people after their participation in the programs has ended. The Academy is working closely with our allies in Congress to ensure that high-quality nutrition services and nutrition education are integral components of nutrition assistance programs like SNAP, SNAP-Ed and EFNEP.
Nutrition education is critical to good health and the development of lifelong healthy behaviors. And effective nutrition education strategies – in combination and coordination with nutrition assistance programs – ensure that the federal investment in these programs pays real dividends.
The Academy urges Congress to reauthorize and fully fund SNAP-Ed and EFNEP. Strong investments in areas like these, that improve the health and well-being of the people of the United States, will allow the government to pave the way for new achievements that contribute to a strong and prosperous nation.
Donna S. Martin, EdS, RDN, LD, SNS, is the director of the Burke County (Ga.) school nutrition program, which has 4,500 students in five schools, serving breakfast, lunch, after-school snacks and supper. Four of the schools have been acknowledged as HealthierUS School Challenge Gold winners. An active member of the Academy’s School Nutrition Services dietetic practice group, Martin represented the Georgia Dietetic Association in the Academy’s House of Delegates and served on the Georgia Department of Education’s Task Force on Nutrition Standards for School Nutrition Programs.