Earlier this week, the USDA announced some big plans for school food—some of the new standards issued include:
- Decrease the amount of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn and green peas, to one cup a week.
- Reduce sodium in meals over the next 10 years. A high school lunch now has about 1,600 milligrams of sodium. Through incremental changes, that amount should be lowered over the next decade to 740 milligrams or less of sodium for grades through 9 through 12; 710 milligrams or less for grades 6 through 8; 640 milligrams or less for kindergarten through fifth grades.
- Establish calorie maximums and minimums for the first time. For lunch: 550 to 650 calories for kindergarten through fifth grade; 600 to 700 for grades 6 through 8; 750 to 850 for grades 9 through 12.
- Serve only unflavored 1% milk or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk. Currently, schools can serve milk of any fat content.
- Increase the fruits and vegetables kids are offered. The new rule requires that a serving of fruit be offered daily at breakfast and lunch and that two servings of vegetables be offered daily at lunch.
To make sure kids will be exposed to a variety of vegetables, green leafy vegetables, orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, summer squash), beans, starchy and other vegetables must be served at least once a week. Also, the proposed rule requires that half the grains served must be whole grains. Trans fats are also to be minimized (by using products containing zero grams trans fat).
The implementation of these new meal standards is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 13. While some parents may worry about the government trying to dictate or control what their kids are eating, the guidelines are based on research used to make health-and-performance promoting recommendations. And if they don’t like it, they can submit input on the proposed rule during a public comment period that ends April 13.
You can read more here.