WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. authorities spends billions of {dollars} yearly to assist feed Ok-12 college students wholesome meals in school.  U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) says the federal authorities ought to dish up extra heart-healthy, scrumptious, nutritious sustainable seafood for teenagers in compliance with the federal authorities’s personal dietary requirements.

“In order for you youngsters to develop up wholesome we’ve to serve them wholesome meals that they’ll truly eat.  U.S. dietary pointers suggest consuming seafood two instances every week, however the USDA solely purchases sufficient seafood for about one serving per pupil for the complete yr.  That should change,” stated Senator Reed.  “Placing extra seafood on the menu in class cafeterias in a win-win-win: It’s nutritious, cost-effective, and sustainable — so it’s good for teenagers, the economic system, and the planet — and it tastes good too.”

After COVID-19 disrupted the U.S. home seafood market, Senator Reed started exploring methods to assist fishermen and seafood processors, together with by increasing the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s (USDA) seafood buying energy.

USDA makes use of its Commodity Buying Program (CPP) to buy domestically-produced and processed meals for supply to varsities and meals banks throughout the nation.  However, traditionally, solely a small portion of those purchases had been for seafood, which is excessive in protein, nutrient-rich, and a crucial part of a well-balanced food regimen. 

The disparity between USDA’s diet pointers and insurance policies and the way they’re truly applied led Reed, alongside together with his colleagues U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), to send a letter in December of 2020 to the Authorities Accountability Workplace (GAO) requesting a examine on the components limiting USDA seafood purchases by means of the CPP, together with for the Nationwide College Lunch Program (NSLP). 

The NSLP yearly offers wholesome meals to 23 million Ok-12 college students nationwide, notably youngsters from low-income households, who obtain free or reduced-price lunches.  Because of the scope of its attain, NSLP is uniquely positioned to have an effect on the dietary patterns of American youngsters and adolescents.

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In response to the request from Reed, Merkley, and Baldwin, GAO issued a report: “National School Lunch Program: USDA Could Enhance Assistance to States and Schools in Providing Seafood to Students” which discovered that USDA wants to extend the quantity of protein-rich seafood choices in class lunches.  The report discovered that the USDA bought a mean of three.4 ounces of seafood per pupil per fiscal yr between 2014 and 2019, which quantities to roughly three fish sticks or one can of tuna yearly per pupil.  That pales compared to the virtually 14 kilos of different proteins USDA bought, reminiscent of poultry (137.8 ounces), beef (59 ounces), pork (14.5 ounces), and eggs (7.5 ounces), bought on common per baby per yr.  GAO discovered these USDA purchases signify about 43 hen drumsticks, 21 beef patties, 12 slices of ham, and 4 eggs per yr.

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