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During the 2021-22 school year, every child across the U.S. will have access to free school meals, a result of flexibilities issued through the USDA. Yet for years, students have been served tons of foods that are loaded with excess, added sugars—things like chocolate milk, cereal, and condiments. Even more concerning is that some of the foods can exceed a child’s entire day’s worth of added sugars. 

In this episode, I sat down with Colin Schwartz, MPP, Deputy Director of Federal Affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Schwartz works on nutrition policy and advocacy and has conducted research about school meals and added sugars in school foods.

We talked about what parents can expect this year with school meals, how much sugar kids are actually consuming, what parents need to know about “copycat foods,” and what they can do to advocate for healthier options.  


3:18 Now that we’re heading into the new school year, are many of the COVID-19 waivers still in place and what should parents expect?

4:33 What work are you and the Center for Science in the Public Interest doing to move Universal School Meals forward?

7:03 This year, California and Maine decided to offer free school meals. Do you think in the next few months other states will follow suit? 

8:30 Will Universal School Meals happen?

9:13 Are the Trump era rollbacks still in place?

11:23 Are schools allowed to serve strawberry and chocolate milk? 

15:05 Discussions around the nutrition of school lunch in the U.S. are often focused on sodium, saturated fat, and whole grains but what about added sugars?

18:55 What are the most common school foods that are high in added sugars? 

21:13 What are “copycat foods” in school cafeterias? 

26:23 Are there groups working to reduce the amount of added sugars in school meals?

27:23 What can parents do if they want—or need to—get school meals and avoid or reduce added sugars?

32:12 What can parents do to advocate for healthier school meals?


Colin Schwartz talks about President Biden’s American Families Plan and the proposed new nutrition standards. 

Colin Schwartz talks about how California adopted universal free school meals and Maine passed a law to provide free school meals through 2023. 

Colin Schwartz mentions the 2021 study he co-authored that showed 9 out of 10 schools exceed added sugars in their meals.

Colin talks about The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommendations of less than 10 percent of added sugars per day.

To learn more about the Center for Science in the Public Interest and find out how to advocate for healthier school meals, visit CSPInet.org


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Author Details
Julie Revelant teaches parents how to raise children who are healthy, adventurous eaters. Through blog posts and videos, her goal is to shift the conversation from short-term, problem picky eating to lifelong, healthy eating and healthy futures. Julie has written for FoxNews.com, FIRST for Women magazine, WhatToExpect.com, EverydayHealth.com, RD.com, TheBump.com, Care.com, and Babble.com.