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Prevention Institute e-alert: May 4, 2015

Healthy environments, sustainability should be included in Dietary Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines are a powerful tool for positive change. The guidelines shape food policy decisions at the federal, state, and local levels, and set the course for the American diet. 

This year, the Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee – a research document that will provide the basis for the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines– highlights the strong need for policies and practices that create healthy environments in communities, schools, workplaces, and other institutions. The report also includes new recommendations related to environmental sustainability, citing a growing body of research about the detrimental impacts of our current food system on the environment and long-term food security. This focus on healthy environments and sustainability is vitally important for all communities, especially the most disenfranchised.

The guidelines advisory committee has faced considerable pushback from Congress and the meat industry about including sustainability—which makes it all the more important for you to speak up. Focusing on environments, policies, and systems will strengthen the guidelines and help to create a more equitable and healthier food system in the long run.

The public comment period closes May 8! Write to the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services TODAY to help shape the next Dietary Guidelines, which are expected to be released later this year. 

Here are a few key talking points to cover in your letter:

  • I support the DGAC’s focus on the need for policy and practice changes to create healthy food environments. The DGAC recommended that Actions for Communities and Populations, including policy, practice, and environmental change, are needed to create a national “culture of health” and generate positive norms change related to diet and health behaviors. These changes should be made across a broad range of sectors, including health care, public health, education, food and agriculture, transportation, food retail, the media, and service sectors.
  • I support the DGAC’s focus on environmental sustainability. The Committee took a critical step in evaluating the relationship between dietary patterns and environmental impacts in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use. Our nation’s ability to meet future food needs will depend on those environmental factors, particularly in the context of a changing climate, with more extremes in weather such as drought, resource shortages, changes in global dietary patterns, and population growth. The DGAC report rightly concludes that sustainable dietary choices support both long-term and short-term nutritional health and are closely linked to the dietary patterns recommended for optimal nutrition. 
  • I support the DGAC’s recommendations to reduce consumption of added sugars and make it easier for consumers to make healthy decisions by revising the Nutrition Facts label to include added sugars with amounts expressed in grams and teaspoons. I also support continued efforts to reduce added sugars in school meals, curb marketing of foods high in added sugars, and explore pricing incentives, including taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • I support the DGAC’s recommendation of water as the healthiest beverage and the DGAC’s emphasis on the need for policy change to make clean and safe tap water more accessible in all communities. 

Need inspiration? Read the public comment letter submitted by the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments.

Submit public comments on dietary guidelines today

Review the DGAC report and share your feedback here. The public comment period closes May 8.

Dietary guidelines should expand the definition of 'healthy food'

Read Prevention Institute's statement on the importance of building environmental sustainability into the dietary guidelines.

Setting the Record Straight

This powerful call to action, endorsed by nutrition and health professionals, sets out a definition of healthful food that "recognizes that healthful food comes from a food system where food is produced, processed, transported, and marketed in ways that are environmentally sound, sustainable and just." Read the rest.

How Menu Labeling Could Spark Change Beyond the Menu Board

Our recent Health Affairs blog post by PI's Larry Cohen and Juliet Sims explores how new nationwide menu labeling standards—set to take effect later this year—can spark conversations and change norms, thus paving the way for future policies that improve the US food landscape.    

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