New USDA program bolsters nutrition security to slash chronic disease and health care costs
18 Mar 2022 --- The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is unveiling its Action on Nutrition Security program as the country grapples with poor nutrition as a leading cause of death and high food insecurity within communities.
Currently, 85% of health care spending is related to diet-related chronic disease, while 600,000 US consumers die each year due to diet-related diseases, the USDA notes.
“Broadly, Americans suffer from poor nutrition. When compared to the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average American diet earns a rating of 59 out of 100 points. Poor diet increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more,” the report notes.
“Beyond impacts on health, this also has negative effects on productivity, health care costs, military readiness and academic achievement. ”The plan outlines a four-pillar strategic approach to leveraging all its assets to move toward nutrition security for all US citizens.
These strategies include:
Meaningful Support: Providing nutrition support throughout all stages of life.
Healthy Food: Connecting all US consumers with healthy, safe, affordable food sources.
Collaborative Action: Developing, translating and enacting nutrition science through partnership.
Equitable Systems: Prioritizing equity every step of the way.
Targeting school meals
One of the proposed measures includes working with industry to help tailor products to the USDA’s programs, including strengthening access to nutritious food for school meals.
“To help facilitate updates to the school meal standards, the Food and Nutrition Service is engaging with industry to support the production of nutritious foods for the K-12 market, including, for example, products meeting the updated targets for sodium and whole grains.”
According to the report, research indicates that COVID-19 led to accelerated increases in children’s weight. This is likely attributed to lower participation in the USDA school meals programs, increased sedentary behaviors and less physical activity during school closures.
COVID-19 spreading food insecurity
The COVID-19 pandemic brought food insecurity to the forefront of the national conversation, agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack notes.
“It also shined a new light on the devastating toll of chronic disease, with an estimated two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US related to diet-related diseases.”
“Across the department, we recognize that food and health are inherently intertwined, and we’re leaning into our powerful tools to help reduce chronic disease, advance equity and promote overall well-being,” he continues
According to the USDA, a household is food secure if all members, at all times, can access enough food for an active, healthy life. At a minimum, food security includes readily available, nutritionally adequate and safe foods, as well as the ability to acquire those foods in socially acceptable ways (without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies).
Nutrition security is defined as consistent access, availability and affordability of foods and beverages that promote well-being, prevent disease, and, if needed, treat disease.
One of the aims is to encourage children to develop healthy habits from a young age.
Providing nutrition support
Under the first pillar, the USDA caters to the program across all life stages with a special focus on young children. It aims to update program nutrition standards to reflect the latest nutrition science. This will consequently impact school lunches and food packages in a bid to ensure they are exposed to healthy foods and, in turn, nurture healthy habits.
“Establishing healthy behaviors to prevent diet-related disease is easier and more effective during childhood and adolescence than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. Until recently, young children and teenagers almost never developed Type 2 diabetes, which is why it used to be called adult-onset diabetes,” the report outlines.
Now, about one in five young US people have obesity, a problem closely related to the increase in children with Type 2 diabetes, it adds.
The program also aims to provide breastfeeding promotion and support.
As part of the second and third pillars, the USDA aims to promote and support fruit and vegetable consumption. To this end, incentive programs will be utilized both to encourage the purchase of nutritious foods as well as help retailers overcome higher costs and initial barriers to selling healthy foods.
In an attempt to promote equitable systems, the program also seeks to bridge language barriers to nutrition education resources and recipes.
Last month, the USDA announced it was taking a step toward its first school nutrition standards to overhaul in a decade, targeting sodium reduction.
By Andria Kades
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.