I recently had the pleasure of addressing a meeting marking the landmark first phase of the B-24 Project, a collaborative initiative between USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to develop dietary recommendations for children from birth to 24 months of age. As existing Federal dietary guidance is designed for those two years and older, the end result of the B-24 project will fill an important gap and provide consistency in maternal, infant and toddler nutrition advice given across government and external organizations.
We gathered experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, World Health Organization, International Life Sciences Institute, and universities across the country to begin the process of scoping the existing literature and making recommendations for additional public and private research needed to fill the gaps. Over time, our experts will gather and analyze currently available sound research related to maternal, infant and toddler health. The end result will be unified Federal dietary guidance for children from birth to 24 months based on the best available science.
With nearly one third of children in America at risk for preventable diseases like diabetes and heart disease due to being overweight or obese, we know that access to proper nutrition early in life can help set the stage for healthier dietary and lifestyle habits and future success in school. Through our National School Lunch Program, school-aged kids across the country are now getting healthier school meals with more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy based on scientific recommendations for nutrition. We recently announced proposed standards to ensure that kids have access to healthy snack options in school. And our WIC program reaches America’s youngest and most vulnerable by providing nutrition services, food benefits, and nutrition education to low-income caregivers, including pregnant and lactating mothers, and infants and young toddlers.
Every day, nutritionists and health-related staff across the country advise mothers and mothers-to-be about what to eat, what to feed their children, how to successfully breastfeed, and the importance of appropriate physical activity for infants and toddlers. Creating nutrition guidance specifically tailored to the needs of infants and toddlers will help better ensure that parents and caregivers are empowered with the information they need to help their children reach optimal growth, development and health on their journey to adulthood.