Commissioner Miller announces plan to combat child obesity, returns control to schools

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AUSTIN – Continuing the same state-mandated, managed-from-the-top school nutrition program is unfair to school children and taxpayers in Texas. With this in mind, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller today announced a five-point plan to combat childhood obesity in Texas and begin to change the culture in school lunchrooms.

One of the primary objectives of the plan is to connect farmers and the fresh food they produce with schools and the children they serve. Additionally, the plan will work to promote community engagement and student involvement, as well as offer training to help schools create high-quality meals that taste great. Furthermore, the plan calls for a public awareness campaign to teach Texans about the full scope of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s (TDA) nutrition programs and the many beneficial resources available to school administrators, nutrition directors, teachers, parents and students.

“What we have been doing to fight childhood obesity for the last ten years has not solved the epidemic in Texas, and in fact, it’s gotten worse,” Commissioner Miller said. “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Here at the Texas Department of Agriculture, we are taking a fresh approach. We want to stop creating healthy trash cans. We must encourage kids to stop throwing away their meals because with them goes taxpayer dollars. Instead, we want all schools to employ best practices to create and serve healthy meals that kids actually want to eat.”

As part of Commissioner Miller’s plan, the Food and Nutrition Division at the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) will do the following:

• Institute community health fairs,
• Continue to educate Texans at conferences around the state,
• Teach decision-makers how to create healthy environments,
• Collaborate with student leaders on healthy initiatives,
• Institute training sessions on food presentation,
• Increase farm to school programs and
• Unveil a Farm Fresh Fridays campaign.

In addition to the plan to combat obesity, Commissioner Miller is announcing updates to the school nutrition policy in Texas. This includes the repeal of certain prohibitions that restricted the use of fryers and sale of low-calorie beverages in Texas schools. Both of these items are permissible according to current federal guidelines. The changes return local control to school districts, where families and community leaders are in the best position to make decisions about what works for the children they serve.

“Parents, superintendents, principals and locally elected school board members are best equipped to make decisions for their own communities, and I trust them to make the right choice for their schools,” Commissioner Miller said. “We are working to put an end to a one-size-fits-all approach mandated from Austin. We want families, teachers and school districts to know the Texas Department of Agriculture supports their decisions and efforts to teach Texas students about making healthy choices. What works well in Dallas might not work in the Rio Grande Valley, and what works well in Lufkin might not work as well in Lubbock. Our new nutrition policy promotes individual responsibility, freedom and liberty. It puts an end to well-intentioned state mandates that have done little or nothing to solve the state’s childhood obesity crisis. Instead, they have resulted in millions of dollars of food not being eaten and thrown away, and I’m here to put an end to that.”

Additionally, the new policy changes allow the band, booster clubs, sports teams and other school groups to sell food and beverages during the school day. Fundraisers are vital to helping supplement the needs of school programs that would otherwise go unmet due to a lack of funding. These sales can happen up to six times a year and are not required to meet federal nutrition standards.

By returning control to the local level, TDA is giving schools in Texas the ability to adopt nutrition standards that fit their needs, including stricter guidelines if they chose. All local regulations must still be consistent with federal law.

All of the policy changes will take effect July 1, and their implementation will occur in the upcoming school year.

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