Nutritious school meals can support children’s health in the short term, and new research suggests that these beneﬁts can extend into adulthood as well. In this study, researchers used comparative risk assessment frameworks to estimate the short-term and long-term health impacts of fully aligning the U.S. National School Lunch program with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. If all school meals were to fully comply with the Dietary Guidelines, researchers estimate improved BMI and blood pressure in the short term, as well as 10,600 fewer deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in adulthood. These health improvements would save an estimated 355,000 disability-adjusted life-years and an estimated $19.3 billion in medical costs each year. While many aspects of the current and proposed school nutrition standards are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines, stronger school meal standards for whole grains, added sugars, and sodium are needed to be able to fully realize these health beneﬁts.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2023 Jul 18;S0002-9165(23)65959-3. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2023.05.031. (Wang L et al.)