American babies and toddlers aren’t eating enough vegetables, and that’s a problem for two reasons. Consuming a wide variety of vegetables supports a child’s good health and development, but research also shows that babies and young toddlers are particularly open to accepting vegetables’ savory flavors—potentially expanding their palates for life and setting them up for a healthier future.
Yet even if a parent wants to take advantage of this “flavor window,” many baby and toddler food manufacturers make that job difficult. As I explore in Kid Food, the baby and toddler market is rife with misleading, “veggie-washed” products like these . . .
. . . . or with products that mask vegetables’ savory flavors with sweet fruit, so they do nothing to expand babies’ (already sugar-loving) palates:
That’s why I’m proud to be one of the founding members of an exciting initiative unveiled on Tuesday by the Partnership for a Healthier America, the nonprofit established in 2010 in conjunction with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. PHA’s new “Veggies Early & Often” campaign aims to educate parents, parents, caregivers, and health professionals about the importance of early, repeated exposure to vegetables for young eaters—while also encouraging baby and toddler food manufacturers to offer more veggie-forward products at an affordable price.
Thanks to this new campaign, parents and caregivers can now be assured that any infant and toddler product bearing this logo contains more than 50% vegetables by weight—a truly meaningful amount!—and also doesn’t contain added salt or sugar, artificial dyes, artificial flavors, or non-nutritive sweeteners. (Similar criteria apply to baby and toddler meals bearing the logo.)
I hope you’ll take some time to learn more about this promising campaign and the innovative baby and toddler food companies that have already signed on. I also encourage interested readers to check out PHA’s new white paper, “Yes, Kids Can Learn to Love Veggies,” which offers an excellent overview of the emerging science around early taste formation.
And now—the rest of this week’s kid/food news:
Top Kid/Food News 🧒🏽 📰
On Friday, President Biden signed an executive order asking the USDA to increase families’ Pandemic-EBT benefits (funds linked to school meals missed due to covid closures) by 15 percent—and to make those funds easier to collect. As Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich reported previously, and reminds us again in this new report, “the vast majority of households have not received any P-EBT benefits this school year, even though the money has been authorized since September.”
How else might the Biden administration change food policy? The New York Times’s Kim Severson offers a round-up of possibilities, include strengthening school nutrition standards and possible support for universal school meals.
The UConn Rudd Center and 1,000 Days have released two new videos to discourage parents from offering fruit drinks and “toddler milks,” neither of which are recommended for young children.
Only a small fraction of high schoolers are eating their recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Times offers tips to boost their intake.
Two weeks ago, I told you about a study finding that kids who consumed more dairy fat had a lower incidence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. A reader emailed me with some concerns about the study, which I then shared with Dr. Jeffrey Schwimmer, one of the study’s co-authors, for his response. I’ve put together the entire exchange and posted it as a comment on that issue of the newsletter—interested readers can scroll down to the bottom of this link.
Cafeteria Corner: School Food News 🍎 🏫
The field is open for President Biden to re-establish stronger school nutrition standards, notes the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in part because the Trump administration never finalized two of its proposed rules for nutrition rollbacks.
Are pandemic school meal programs leaving out kids of color? Civil Eats investigates.
School food reformer Chef Ann Cooper, and Mara Fleishman, CEO of the Chef Ann Foundation, pen an open letter to incoming/returning Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to once again champion school meals.
When a Minnesota district ended its a la carte food sales, it scored a financial win, eliminated stigma, and boosted student nutrition.
A federal court has ordered a juice processor to stop selling juice contaminated with arsenic and mold to schools.
For Little Eaters—and Those Who Feed Them 👶 🥣
There’s no easy fix for addressing kids’ pandemic weight gain, writes pediatrician Perri Klass in the New York Times, but several experts chime in with suggestions.
Parents offers “50 Ways to Get Your Kid to Eat New Foods” (I’m quoted).
Children use seven senses as they learn to eat, writes child feeding expert Melanie Potock.
A mom admits to mixed feelings when her daughter started to cook.
Meal-o-Matic, a free online tool, makes cooking dinner easier and reduces food waste by generating recipes using ingredients you have on hand.
The Grown-Ups’ Table 🍸🍴
Interesting food links that caught my eye:
As people lose their sense of taste and smell to Covid, the food industry sniffs an opportunity.
Ethnicity may play a role in how we perceive flavors.
A schmear too far? Jeni’s introduces Everything Bagel ice cream.
Apparently, we’ve reached Peak Hasselback. 🥔 🔪
Missing Persons Report 🔎 🗺️
I’m so glad I moved The Lunch Tray (formerly a WordPress blog) to Substack—but like that one box of dishes that doesn’t make it to your new house, I think I lost some folks along the way!
Would you mind helping readers (old and new) find my content? It just takes a click. Thank you!
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Until Next Time . . .
OK, that’s it for this week!
Don’t forget: If you work in the kid/food world and have something big going on—an article or op-ed you've just written, an innovation in your school food program, a new advocacy campaign or policy initiative, recently published research, or any other news or tidbits—I’d love to know about it.