January 18, 2011
On Thursday, January 13, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) published revised nutrition requirements for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs in the Federal Register.
The proposed changes, which are based on the recommendations in this 2009 report from the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine, would increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free and low-fat fluid milk and reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and calories in school meals. The guidelines do not address sugar content.
“With many children consuming as many as half their daily calories at school, strengthening nutritional standards is an important step in the Obama administration’s effort to combat childhood obesity and improve the health and well-being of all our kids,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The revised standards double the amount of fruit served at breakfast and the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables served at lunch, with the notable exception of starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, a longtime staple of school lunches in the form of french fries and tater tots. Starchy vegetables, which also include corn, green peas, and lima beans, will be limited to one cup per student per week.
The announcement of the new guidelines comes just a few weeks after President Obama signed into law the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which increased school lunch reimbursements by 6 cents per meal in order to help schools afford healthier foods.
“We understand that these improved meal standards may present challenges for some school districts, but the new law provides important new resources, technical assistance and flexibility to help schools raise the bar for our kids,” said Secretary Vilsack.
The new nutrition standards only address what is served by the school cafeteria, and will not affect children’s lunches brought from home.
Comments on the proposed standards can be submitted at http://www.regulations.gov until April 13, 2011.