Applying Racial Equity to U.S. Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs - Flipbook - Page 48
Reform nutritional standards and enhance staff education to
reduce micronutrient deficiencies
CNPs should seek to prevent and/or eliminate micronutrient deficiencies among children of color to achieve equitable
nutrition outcomes for all children. While Child Nutrition programs focus on children who lack access to nutrient-rich diets,
programs will be more effective if the initial program design identifies and plans for nutrient-specific dietary needs based on
Vitamin D is the most significant micronutrient disparity among children of color. Vitamin D deficiency can be caused by
a number of factors, among them lactose intolerance, limited exposure to sunlight, dark skin, and obesity. African American
and Indigenous children are more likely than white children to be lactose intolerant193 194 195 and obese.196 197 Because residents
of low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately people of color, African American and Indigenous children in urban and
metropolitan areas are less likely to have places to play outdoors and get sufficient exposure to sunlight.198 The combination of
these factors and their darker skin explains why African American children have the highest Vitamin D deficiency rates of all
racial groups199 and Indigenous children also have high rates of Vitamin D deficiency.200
Vitamin D plays a key role in child development, and deficiencies have been
associated with other health complications that are found disproportionately
in communities of color.201 202 203 Thus, it is vital that children receive sufficient
“Many children of color
Vitamin D as part of their daily diets. Currently, milk is the main reliable source
are unable to consume
of Vitamin D provided in schools under USDA nutrition standards, but as just
the main source of
mentioned, many children of color are lactose intolerant, putting them at higher
risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D available at
Children of color are also more vulnerable than white children to iron deficiency.
One study showed that the iron deficiency levels of Latino/a children were far higher
of lactose intolerance.
than those of non-Latino/a children.204 Iron is vitally important; the human body
needs it to produce healthy new red blood cells. Children with low iron levels are at
This contributes to
higher risk of iron-deficiency anemia.
high levels of Vitamin
Child Nutrition programs should recognize and respond to disparities in nutritional
D deficiency among
risks among different racial/ethnic groups. Programs should offer food options that are
more nutritious, culturally competent, and culturally humble (see glossary), and
children of color.”
should educate front line staff such as cafeteria workers on nutritional inequities.
Adopting these reforms concurrently, so that they work in concert and do not stand in isolation, will be the most effective
way of making Child Nutrition programs more racially equitable.
• USDA should make a concerted effort to eliminate nutritional deficiencies. Since children of color are
disproportionately at risk of deficiencies in two main nutrients, iron and Vitamin D, Child Nutrition programs should
provide appropriate amounts of both in readily absorbable forms by:
Working collaboratively to ensure that students of color receive enough iron each day to eliminate current
deficiencies. CNPs are responsible for providing a third of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) through the
National School Lunch Program, which serves 22 million students. Increasing the serving size so that it provides half,
rather than one-third, of the daily requirement205 would be a good option.
Launch a USDA team, led by nutritionists of color, to determine how both CNPs and the larger public health
community can contribute to eliminating nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron. Such a team should include
people from diverse backgrounds, such as school administrators, school kitchen staff, healthcare practitioners, public
health specialists, anti-hunger researchers, and parents and students representing various geographical areas, racial
identities, and ages. The team’s recommendations should then be piloted under a strong evaluation protocol to identify
the practices that show the most promise of reducing key nutritional deficiencies.
APPLYING RACIAL EQUITY TO U.S. FEDERAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: SNAP, WIC AND CHILD NUTRITION