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A Healthy Facelift for the School Lunch Program

February 8, 2012

It’s been estimated that nearly 32 million children eat lunch and 11 million eat breakfast each day in school.  Overall, about 30%-50% of kid’s daily calories are consumed in school.  It is crucial that they receive nutritious options to promote healthy lifestyle behaviors, as well as proper nutrition for optimal learning in the classroom.  For nearly seven years dietitians have been trying to convince Congress to change school lunch programs by requesting more fruits and vegetables and whole grains to be offered and to cut down on sugar, sodium, and fat.  However, no actions were taken.  Last month, the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced finalized nutrition standards for school lunches.  

Schools are now required to:

  • Increase the variety of vegetables given to students
  • Serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch and to increase the serving sizes of these foods (according to age group)
  • Serve a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red-orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, and legumes each week (portion sizes will vary by age group)
  • Provide low fat or fat-free milk (white and flavored)
  • Have set standards for calories and sodium in meals
  • Serve foods with no trans-fat
  • Set calorie standards that address not only hunger issues but also obesity

 

After two years of implementation, all grains served to students must be whole grain such as brown rice, cereals, buns, etc., and must have whole grain as the first ingredient.

Athough French Fries will still be served and pizza will still count as a vegetable serving, these changes are a huge step in the right direction.  Children will now be served the food they love to eat but with healthier ingredients.  Food suppliers are already responding to the new changes by lowering the fat, sodium, and sugar in foods and switching to baked or roasted French fries. 

These new standards will take effect in the next school year.  With these positive changes and other health initiatives in place, I hope to see childhood obesity decrease and healthier living for our children. 

What do you think of these new school lunch nutrition standards?  Are there other changes you would like to see in school meals? 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Sam Lapidus, Jr. permalink
    February 8, 2012 11:29 am

    Very informative.

    Your blogs are the best.

    Keep up the good work.

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